Seasonal Flu More Deadly Than MRSA

Monday, October 29, 2007 | 12:00 am

Nashville, October 26, 2007 - While concerns continue to mount about diagnosed cases of MRSA or Methicillin–resistant staph aureus, statistically seasonal flu kills more Americans annually than this drug-resistant form of staph infection. According to a study issued October 17 by the Journal of the American Medical Association, MRSA caused nearly 19,000 deaths in the United States in 2005, while annually about 36,000 people died of seasonal flu with approximately 700 of them here in Tennessee.

“MRSA is a serious disease, and we should take precautions to prevent its occurrence whenever possible, but cases will continue to occur despite everyone’s best efforts,” said Deputy State Epidemiologist Tim F. Jones, M.D. “As with any communicable illness, our best strategy is teaching our children about good hygiene and urging them to put it into practice. This will protect them not only from illnesses like MRSA but also from the seasonal flu, which is almost twice as deadly in the United States.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, and supplies of flu vaccine are available now at county health departments, health care providers’ offices, pharmacies and grocery stores across the state. The Tennessee Department of Health strongly encourages high risk people to get vaccinated. Those considered high risk include:

  1. Persons age 2 to 64 years with chronic health conditions
  2. Residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes
  3. Persons 65 years of age and older
  4. Children age 6 to 23 months
  5. Health-care personnel who provide direct patient care
  6. Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than 6 months
  7. Pregnant women

“Some of the same measures people use to protect themselves from the flu also work to prevent MRSA. These include frequent hand washing with warm, soapy water and keeping hands away from the face, including the nose, mouth and eyes,” said Jones. “I strongly urge Tennesseans to also get a flu shot, cover your cough and sneeze with a sleeve or tissue, and stay home when you’re sick.”
To increase awareness of and information about MRSA, the Tennessee Department of Health has made available via the Internet a toolkit to assist school officials and the general public. The toolkit is available at http://health.state.tn.us/MRSA.

For more information on the flu vaccine, contact your local health department or log onto the Internet at http://health.state.tn.us/FactSheets/flu.htm.