Death toll rises from antibiotic-resistant bacteria

I'm not usually one for statistics, but this one caught my eye: According to the CDC, the strain of common staph bacteria called MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is now responsible for more deaths throughout the U.S. than the AIDS virus.

Research reveals that in 2005, MRSA infections caused 18,650 deaths nationwide. Meanwhile, the far more publicized scourge of AIDS killed 12,500 in the same time period. It's thought that nearly 32 out of 100,000 U.S. residents get MRSA infections each year - that's 94,360 infections - more than meningitis, bacterial pneumonia, and flesh-eating strep combined.

Now, the last time the media made a big stink about MRSA (back in November, I believe), I told you that this "new" superbug wasn't new at all. But the fact that it's so high on the "This Could Kill You List" should finally make people sit up and take notice. Without treatment, these infections can cause the death of skin tissue, which leads to excruciating and often disfiguring abscesses. And when the bacteria spread to bones, joints, vital organs or even the blood, it can cause complications that result in fatalities. Naturally, this makes immediate treatment critical.

Ultimately, the big problem here isn't just the growing number of people infected - it's that these bacteria can so easily shrug off first-line antibiotic treatments.

The problem is, there isn't yet a foundation or lobbying group for MRSA. There's no one knitting a MRSA quilt, or making movies about MRSA victims. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria aren't quite as sexy as a politically charged ailment that affects only a small percentage of the population (the spread of which is completely behavior based and could be stopped cold if some people could manage to keep their pants on or stop sticking needles into their arms). I think you know where I'm going with this.

But while you're not likely to see a Tom Hanks movie about a man's struggle and alienation from his deadly bout with MRSA, let me tell you this: the ramifications of a runaway form of antibiotic resistant staph bacteria are a lot scarier and more far-reaching than AIDS could ever hope to be.

MRSA is certainly nothing you want to mess around with, but you don't have to live in fear of it, either. To find out how to stay protected against this deadly superbug, read my article, "Your best protection from MRSA."

Update: Victory in California's raw milk battle

Good news from the raw milk front! A California superior court has blocked a California Department of Food and Agriculture act that placed unreasonable restrictions on the sale of raw milk throughout the state.

Not too long ago, I told you about the death sentence that the AB 1735 act would have been for raw milk producers and advocates throughout California. This controversial and insanely restrictive law would have required that all raw milk sold in the state contain less than 10 coliforms per ml - a practically unattainable standard that was tantamount to the banning of raw milk throughout California.

Thankfully, cooler heads have prevailed for the moment, and a Hollister Superior Court judge granted the Claravale Dairy a temporary restraining order that bars the CDFA from using the coliform counts to measure production in raw milk. According to the judge's ruling, he could find no evidence that ANY level of coliforms placed consumers at risk.

As the kids say, "Well, DUH." The judge couldn't find the evidence because coliforms are not only a harmless bacteria, but a BENEFICIAL bacteria. In addition, the judge also issued the restraining order because the crazy new standards of AB 1725 placed the raw milk business at "substantial and immediate" risk.

To be sure, this is a HUGE win for raw milk fans and producers. But it's just one battle in what's shaping up as a long legal struggle.

I'll continue to keep you posted.