The first week of March 2013 brought us news and headlines like the following:

'Nightmare' Bacteria Spreading in U.S. Hospitals, Nursing Homes

TUESDAY, March 5 — A "nightmare" bacteria that is resistant to powerful antibiotics and kills half of those it infects has surfaced in nearly 200 U.S. hospitals and nursing homes, federal health officials reported Tuesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 4 percent of U.S. hospitals and 18 percent of nursing homes had treated at least one patient with the bacteria, called Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), within the first six months of 2012.

The news article, originally written by Reuters senior Health & Science correspondent Sharon Begley, relied primarily upon a report published by the CDC in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) titled, "Vital Signs: Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae".  Begley's reporting was picked up by a number of news agencies and bloggers, was copied almost verbatim and then passed around all over the Web.

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The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people, more than the total of those who died in World War I.  It has been called the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague. The 1918 influenza virus was a strain that is known today as H1N1.  Interestingly, a variant of H1N1 is the “Swine Flu” strain circulating the globe today [Go to our website (www.biotechnews.com) to see an extract from a previous Report, “In Times Like These” where we provide extensive information on the subject of Influenza ─ Ed.].

The important thing to note about the 1918 flu pandemic is that it wasn’t the flu virus per se which caused so many deaths.  Rather, most died of bacterial pneumonia.  A recent paper on the 1918 flu pandemic in the CDC’s journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases states that the conventional wisdom underlying pandemic flu preparations is wrong.  Medical and scientific experts now agree that bacteria, not influenza viruses, were the greatest cause of death during the 1918 flu pandemic.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released the report, “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013” (hereafter, the “Report”) which announced that “antimicrobial resistance is one of our most serious health threats”.  The Report, which runs more than 100 pages, describes itself to be “a snapshot of the complex problem of antibiotic resistance today and the potentially catastrophic consequences of inaction”.  Its overriding purpose is “to increase awareness of the threat that antibiotic resistance poses and to encourage immediate action to address the threat.”

(Here’s the link if you’d like to take a closer look:  http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/threat-report-2013/pdf/ar-threats-2013-508.pdf)

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