Three Chicago area children have died of a toxic shock syndrome-like illness caused by a superbug they caught in the community and not in a hospital, where the germ is usually found.
In the cases reported in medical journal, the baby and two toddlers who died were otherwise healthy before they were separately admitted to a Chicago hospital with pneumonia-like symptoms between 2000 and 2004. Doctors said they believe the children probably inhaled the germ.
The cases show this already-worrisome staph germ has become even more dangerous by gaining the ability to cause this shocklike condition.
In 1999, drug-resistant staph infections killed four healthy children ranging in age from 1 to 13 years old in Minnesota and North Dakota. Since then, doctors have actively looked for such infections in their community, Chicago-Sun reports.
"There's a new kid on the block," said Dr. John Bartlett of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, referring to the added strength of the superbug known as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
"The fact that there are three community-acquired staph aureus cases is really scary," said Bartlett, an infectious disease specialist.
Health officials do not yet know how the drug-resistant staph causes this new syndrome, but it appears to be rare, said Dr. Clifford McDonald, an epidemiologist with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.