Deadly superbugs are infiltrating our communities – affecting children, students, and otherwise healthy individuals, especially young people. One of these well-known superbugs is Methicillin-Resistant Staphyloccocus Aureus (MRSA), an infection that is no longer bound by hospital walls but quickly seeping into our homes, communities, cities, and states. You don't need to be at a hospital to pick up MRSA; you can now easily pick up at your local gym, grocery store, or school.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 100,000 cases of MRSA occur each year, and nearly 20,000 die as a result of infection (from the last recorded study in 2005). This equates to a MRSA-related death every 26 minutes. Many of these deaths are preventable if communities become more educated and aware of the threat that MRSA poses in their daily lives. Understanding risk factors and ways to prevent infection are key to reducing the number of MRSA cases and the deaths associated with it.
That's why the federal government is proposing to reintroduce the Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance Act (STAAR Act), a legislation that will create a national strategy to combat the problem around MRSA and other superbugs. Through the STAAR Act, the federal government will be responsible for coordinating all federal activities, such as research, surveillance, and data collection with the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other relevant agencies.
It is critically important that this bill include a provision to increase public education to control and prevent the spread of MRSA in the United States. Previous versions of the bill introduced in Congress last year and the year before did not incorporate precise language pertaining to MRSA and its affects on our communities, especially in schools, gyms, community centers, and daycares.
This bill must be introduced as soon as possible by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. It will be immediately welcomed by numerous health and education organizations that endorse the bill including the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the National Parent Teacher Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association.
There is a sense of urgency in Utah considering the increasing number of cases. For example, Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, reported in 2008 that they saw 170 cases of MRSA the year before, about half of which were picked up in the community. That's six times the number of cases seen in 2000, and the numbers continue to grow.
MRSA superbugs will continue to affect our country if we fail to recognize them as a major public health threat. It is time for America to raise awareness on MRSA.
Amanda Rae Kronquist and Daliha Aqbal are graduate students at Georgetown University.