How and Why Does the Flu Become Deadly? | Carson Tahoe Health

Influenza, MRSA, and Pneumonia – A Deadly Combination

Influenza is usually not life threatening unless you are at high risk for complications. However, this illness combined with a newly widespread staph bacteria called MRSA, has formed a deadly new threat that continues to take more and more lives every year.

 MRSA Pneumonia

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by a strain of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections. These staph infections are posing a deadly new threat in the form of MRSA pneumonia. MRSA may be behind 4 out of 5 of the staph pneumonia cases that doctors see.

Since these infections can kill within four days, delays in seeking treatment or diagnosis can be linked to the death of these patients. In some cases – about a third – the MRSA pneumonia follows a bout of influenza. Staph is a challenge to anyone suffering from influenza, but the stakes are raised considerably in populations where the drug resistant varieties of MRSA are being carried by in excess of 10% of children and young people. The staph pneumonia patients’ average age is often around 16.

Those recovering from a recent flu are about twice as likely to die. Staph is capable of reaching the lungs, often after colonizing the nose. The flu virus shuts down the normal defenses of the lung and the staph bacteria then flourishes.

Drug Treatment

Failure rates of 40% have been reported for Vancomycin, the drug of choice for difficult cases of MRSA. With new strains of MRSA needing bigger doses and poor penetration into epithelial cell lining fluid by the drug some are looking to the more expensive Linezolid. (Zyvox) for MRSA pneumonia cases. Trials have produced mixed results but some studies indicate Linezolid is more effective.

What You Can Do

Be aware of the MRSA pneumonia risks and consistently monitor anyone exhibiting flu like symptoms. If your influenza symptoms have not improved over 48 hours, your child gets a temperature of over 102 degrees and he/she cannot be cooled down, or your symptoms go away and then suddenly return, seek immediate help through your physician or nearest emergency provider.