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Variant of Staph Infection Is One Tough Bug

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A tough strain of skin infection that's called the “Super Bug” has become the most common form of skin infection among adult patients in hospitals nationwide, health officials say, but it can prey on people big and small.

One blister showed up on Emma Berrier’s forehead, then another on her chin. Celia Berrier took her 6-month-old daughter to the doctor.

"He didn't even need to do a culture. He just knew it was MRSA," Celia said Wednesday.

It’s pronounced MER-sah and stands for “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,” a tough strain of staph infection unfazed by many antibiotics.

Emma’s mom believes Emma caught MRSA from another child whose MRSA has worsened.

"It progressed and has moved to other parts of his body, and he's just very ill,” Berrier said.

MRSA usually infects the skin and causes large pimples or boils. It can, however, enter through wounds, spread through the bloodstream and even infect the lungs.

"The [bacteria] is everywhere. It's on the skin, in the nose" normally, said Dr. Lan Tran-Phu of the Cumberland County Health Department.

When it becomes an infection, however, the MRSA strain can be tricky to treat, she said.

"Because of the new strain of the mutation of the bacteria that becomes more resistant to antibiotics, we become more concerned because we have to use different kinds of antibiotics," Tran-Phu said.

Doctors say the best way to avoid an infection is with routine hand-washing and strong personal hygiene. They also recommend keeping cuts and bruises cleaned and covered until they heal.

It’s hard to pin down numbers to tell how widespread MRSA is in North Carolina, but state health officials recorded 95 serious cases of MRSA at the state's 11 biggest hospitals in 2005 and 2006.

Health officials stress that most MRSA infections will eventually heal, as Emma’s are.

Infections are most common among people who have weak immune systems and live in hospitals, though officials say it's increasingly showing up in healthy people.


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