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Researchers have found an alarming increase in the number of children’s ear, nose and throat infections nationwide, which are caused by dangerous drug-resistant staph germs, nicknamed MRSA. These infections can include ear and sinus infections, and abscesses that can form in the tonsils and throat. Other studies have found the number of skin infections in adults and children has also risen due to MRSA, though the recent study of ear, nose and throat infections is the first to find how common the germ is in deeper tissue infections of the head and neck. MRSA can cause life-threatening invasive infections and because of the germ not responding to penicillin-based antibiotics, doctors are scared it is becoming resistant to other antibiotics as well. Doctors believe the inappropriate use of antibiotics has contributed to the rise.

MRSA head and neck infections most often develop in MRSA carriers, who become susceptible to the germ because of ear, nose or throat infections caused by some other bug. The germ can be picked up in normally healthy people through direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with surfaces contaminated with the germs from cuts or other open wounds. Unlike cold and flu bugs, MRSA germs are not airborne and do not spread through sneezing. Symptoms that it could be MRSA include ear infections that drain pus, or swollen neck lymph nodes caused by pus draining from a throat or nose abscess.

The study, which took results from a national electronic database collected from more than 300 hospitals, found 21,009 pediatric head and neck infections caused by staph germs from 2001 to 2006. The percentage that was caused by hard to treat MRSA bacteria more than doubled during that time from twelve percent to twenty-eight percent. While MRSA infection were once limited to mostly hospitals and other health-care settings, almost sixty percent of the MRSA infections are believed to have been contracted outside of a hospital setting.

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