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When A Super Bug Attacks: My Son Got MRSA

Photograph by Getty Images

Last year, my son had a blistering boil near his wrist, which I assumed was some type of bug bite. I had seen it in its early stages and thought, “Hmm, that’s interesting, I wonder how that happened?” At first it looked like a mosquito bite, but as the days passed, it didn’t go away. I watched it as it went from being a small irritation to a deep, reddish-purple boil. My son complained about it, but because he had no fever or other symptoms, I thought, “OK, spider bite” (spiders are pretty common where I live in Southern California), and I put a bandage on it. To my dismay, it did not get better, and while my son was with his father on a weekend stay, he decided to take him to see the doctor.

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The results came back positive for MRSA, a type of staph infection and “super bacterium,” which happened to be on the rise at the time. Of course this was alarming, but because I had not attended the initial doctor’s visit I didn’t understand its severity. Also, my son was not sick. He had no fever and showed no real signs of being sick or contagious. It was the sight of the boil and his frustration with it that caused his father to take him to the doctor and have it checked. I then saw a Frontline special that painted a pretty grim picture.

From the Frontline documentary, I learned that MRSA can be a deadly bacteria when, or if, it gets into the bloodstream. Recently, hospitals have seen a rise in the MRSA bacteria and many patients have died as a result. Luckily my son contracted a strain of this bacteria for which we currently have an antibiotic cure. But because this particular strain is resistant to penicillin and many of the commonly known and used antibiotics, the doctor gave us one we’d never used that is generally stronger.

I learned that MRSA can be a deadly bacteria when, or if, it gets into the bloodstream. Recently, hospitals have seen a rise in the MRSA bacteria and many patients have died as a result.

We have become a society that relies heavily — too heavily some say — on antibiotics, and our overuse of antibiotics can lead to increasingly resistant strains of bacteria. In the past, pharmaceutical companies have created stronger and stronger antibiotics to kill these bacteria, but doing so requires years of financial investments and the time and skills of the most sought-after scientists. It is a very costly endeavor for these businesses.

Ultimately, we are each responsible for our children and ourselves, and it’s very important to be prepared. So here’s a list of ways to protect against encountering this new strain of super bacteria:

1. Wash your hands frequently with soap.

2. Have your children wash their hands often, especially when they are young and indiscriminately touching everything.

3. Avoid using antibacterial soaps and washes. We don’t want to kill all bacteria that we contact; doing so makes us more vulnerable to resistant strains.

4. Be very mindful in hospitals. Wash your hands and ask your doctor to wash his or her hands, too.

5. If you see open wounds on your children’s bodies pay attention to them, clean them and cover them.

6. Always ask whether antibiotics are necessary for illnesses that may heal without them.

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Today, my son is recovering just fine. The doctors found an antibiotic that could combat the strain of bacteria he came into contact with. But it’s been a scary ordeal for all of us.

In order to prevent future outbreaks, the doctors recommend bathing him in a bath with a cup of household bleach added for 20 minutes twice a week. The worst part is, I have no idea where he might have come into contact with this bacterium — at the beach, the local pool, school, an indoor play park? It could have been anywhere.

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Image via Getty Images

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