Carole Moss, the mother of an MRSA victim, describes her son. "Nile, an honor student, a musician, an artist, an entertainer, a lover of life."
Carole Moss of Riverside told a state Senate committee Thursday that the state is ill-prepared for the growing number of cases related to the deadly, often drug-resistant bacteria called MRSA. Her 15-year-old son, Nile, died last year at the hospital because no one, not even doctors, knew he had it.
"The fact of the matter is that we are in the middle of a superbug outbreak, and California is not passing the test," says Moss.
This mom with a mission may be right because the state couldn't even say how many MRSA cases California has had when grilled by Committee Chairman, State Senator Dean Florez.
Gil Chavez, M.D., State Epidemiologist: "We don't have the total count of MRSA cases in the state."
State Sen. Dean Florez: "So then this is my point. How long are we going to debate that question?"
Gil Chavez: "What we want to do is make sure we end up with MRSA reporting that is going to give us the information that we need to develop more effective prevention strategies."
What is known is the national rate of infection. The Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases found MRSA-related hospitalizations doubled between 1999 and 2005 from 127,000 to almost 280,000. And it's slowly showing up in California schools.
The state auditor, Elaine Howle, testified the state's response to an MRSA epidemic vastly needs updating based on her 2005 review. "The Disaster Medical Response Plan that was last issued at that time when we conducted the audit was 1992. So it was 13 years old at that time. And then the Medical Mutual Aid Plan, we had even more concerns about. That was last issued in 1974."
Senator Florez hopes to introduce legislation that would require better reporting of MRSA infections and improve the state response in the event of an outbreak.