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Byline: Greg Tindle Health Correspondent

A SUPERBUG is claiming more victims in South Wales than ever before.

More than 550 people across Wales are now dying each year from the deadly hospital bug MRSA, which attacks the weak, elderly and those infected after surgery.

The alarming rise in the number of cases has sparked a call from health watchdogs in Cardiff for the National Assembly to launch an investigation.

The latest NHS figures for Wales show the number of infections has risen from 2,700 in 1996 to just over 6,000 last year, with a fatality rate of one in 11. There were around 240 deaths in 1996.

The recorded cases of the antibiotic-resistant bug, far outstrip the annual number of cases of Aids, meningitis and CJD in Wales. The MRSA bug is common and is harmlessly carried on the skin of most people. It spreads through hand to hand contact, usually by hospital staff or visitors to the patients.

When transmitted to those unable to fight the infection, the bacteria cause wound and skin infections, pneumonia or blood poisoning.

John Fletcher, of the Cardiff Community Health Council, which is calling for the investigation, said: "The explosion in MRSA cases in Wales is horrifying. It's a frightening trend with the number of deaths and confirmed cases going up every year. Little is being done to get to the root of the problem. We want an immediate investigation."

MRSA sufferer John O'Sullivan, of Tyn-y-Pwll Road, Whitchurch, Cardiff, has been campaigning for an inquiry for two years.

"I am grateful for the support of John Fletcher and welcome their decision to call for an investigation. This is long overdue, " he said.

Welsh Health Minister Jane Hutt said: "A communicable disease control strategy is being developed and this accepts the prevalence of MRSA. It is looking at ways to counter the spread of bacteria. A surveillance project, which specifically targets cases of MRSA, is also being undertaken."

SUPERBUG FACTS MRSA is short for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Staphylococcus aureus is a strain of bacteria commonly and harmlessly found on the skin and in the nose Unlike most bacteria this strain is resistant to antibiotics - including methicillin Although no danger to the fit and healthy, the bacteria can cause severe problems in hospitals when the bug gets into wounds or open infections Those most at risk are patients in intensive care and burns units, surgical and orthopaedic wards The bug is spread by hand-to-hand contact usually either by hospital staff, other patients or visitors The only effective methods of avoiding the spread is by meticulous hand washing before and after contact with patients Experts recommend that patients with MRSA should be treated in isolation to avoid contact with others Patients who do recover are often faced with years of debilitating illness and can be shunned socially for fear of spreading the bug


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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 2, 2001
Previous Article:Service at Westbury.

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