HEALTH OFFICIALS SAY DISINFECTING OF BUILDINGS AGAINST MRSA IS COSTLY AND INEFFECTIVE AND TO CONTROL THE EPIDEMIC, MORE RESEARCH IS NEEDED ? "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
The elaborate disinfections schools are undertaking in the wake of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureas, or MRSA, infections are doing little to prevent the spread of the bug, say health officials. Ultimately, only successful research into the root causes of the epidemic will provide the answer to controlling it. Lesley Stahl reports on the outbreak of the serious and sometimes deadly drug-resistant infection in a segment to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, Nov. 11 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"I am concerned that we have schools that are spending inordinate amounts of money trying to sterilize the school," says Allegheny (Pa.) County Director of Public Health Dr. Bruce Dixon. "As soon as the students and the faculty return, the school is no longer sterile," he tells Stahl. When Stahl points out a school in Virginia where several cases of MRSA have prompted a new disinfection for each case, he replies, "Well, I think the proof is exactly what's happening in Virginia. If they keep getting cases and they keep disinfecting the school, it appears...it doesn't work," says Dixon.
The infection, once found almost solely among patients in hospitals and nursing homes, is affecting healthy people in the community in places like schools and daycare centers. It can be treated effectively with common antibiotics if caught early enough; left untreated, the infection becomes drug-resistant and often requires hospitalization and special drugs. The government estimates that 2,000 people will die from it this year.
Dixon was interviewed by Stahl at Mt. Lebanon High School near Pittsburgh, where 13 cases of the MRSA infection have been found. All the victims were football players, some of whose infections began with scrapes suffered when contact is made with playing surfaces such as artificial turf. "It's the kids themselves. It's not any inanimate thing that they're touching," Dixon says. "It's not the field...the cafeteria. It's people. One person touches another." Nonetheless, parents asked officials to test the artificial field at Mt. Lebanon for MRSA, which was not found.
Members of the Mt. Lebanon football team say they are washing their hands and taking showers more frequently. This is helpful, but will not effectively control the epidemic says Dr. Robert Daum, an infectious disease pediatrician at the University of Chicago Medical Center he says. "We need more research and we need to understand why this is happening...how is it spreading...what are the new high-risk groups," Daum tell Stahl. "I'm saying a lot of work needs to be done to find the root cause."