That’s how one epidemiologist described a study that recently received quite a bit of media attention. She could have added, “terrifying,” because according to this new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research, your chances of falling prey to an unusually aggressive and life-threatening bacterium are much higher than previously thought.
But after the news anchors shared this grim report, they immediately moved on to political news, traffic, weather, etc., leaving many viewers to wonder – How do I protect myself?
I’m glad you asked.
As villains go, it doesn’t have a very catchy name, but methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a villainous bacterium – resistant to most antibiotics, easily transmitted by casual contact, and responsible for as much as 20 percent of all infections picked up in hospitals and other health care facilities.
Even worse, MRSA is deadly. And while this has been known for many years, the new CDC study indicates that this bacterium may be twice as deadly as previously thought.
From July 2004 through the end of 2005, researchers tracked statistics collected from nine U.S. health care centers that participated in a special bacterial surveillance program. Extrapolating the data, researchers estimated that more than 94,000 patients were infected with invasive MRSA during the study period, and 85 percent of the infections were associated with health care treatment.
Well over 18,500 of the infected patients died.
Some hospitals test incoming patients for MSRA and then isolate infected patients. This is somewhat controversial because sequestered patients may not receive the same level of care as uninfected patients. While that issue is open to debate, the New York Times reports that a hospital system in Chicago has cut the rate of MSRA infections by 60 percent since screening began in 2005.
Which brings us to the question: What can you do to reduce your risk of infection during a planned hospital stay?
You can begin by choosing a hospital with a high safety rating. In the e-Alert “Ladies, Gentlemenand Children of All Ages” (4/26/05), I told you about a Department of Health and Human Services web site (hospitalcompare.hhs.gov) that provides an assessment of the level of care at participating hospitals. You can easily search the database by entering a hospital name, zip code, city, county, or state.
Another similar web site (healthgrades.com) collects mortality data on more than 5,000 U.S. hospitals. You can also search for information about individual physicians and nursing homes on this site.
Once you’ve chosen a top rated hospital, what steps can you take to personally prepare yourself for a hospital stay? When I put this question to HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., he began and ended his comments with vitamin C.
Dr. Spreen: “I’d be taking vitamin C by the grams (to bowel tolerance then just below), but right before surgery you’d have to cut back to keep from hindering the anesthesia (which is another toxin, remember). I’d also be taking beta-glucan as an immune stimulant.
“For strict bactericidal activity I’d be doing olive leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract (not grape seed, though I like it too), and colloidal silver. In other words, I’d be pulling out all the stops. If I had a reasonable doc I’d be getting vitamin C intravenously post-op – then the MRSA wouldn’t be a factor. Yep, vitamin C in high enough doses kills ALL invading bugs. Fred Klenner, MD, proved that back in the 40’s (but who’s listening?).”
“Invasive Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infections in the United States” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 298, No. 15, 10/17/07, jama.ama- assn.org
“Deadly Bacteria Found to Be More Common” Kevin Sack, The New York Times, 10/17/07, nytimes.com