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Gov't Should Make Superbug A Notifiable Disease

Green Party Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley today called for MRSA to be urgently made a notifiable disease as part of a national strategy to contain the superbug explosion.

"Until the methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is made a notifiable disease, it will be impossible for the Ministry of Health to control. Without a notification requirement, we can't know how widespread this problem is - all we do know is that superbug cases are snowballing."

Latest Health Ministry statistics show that reported cases of MRSA have increased by 60 percent over the past year, but the ministry has said it is impossible to know how many cases have gone unreported.

"The ministry is trying to downplay the significance of a 60 percent increase, but in fact this kind of exponential growth shows that we are losing control of the problem."

Ms Kedgley said without full and complete information about the cases of MRSA, there could be no coordinated approach to contain this threat to public health.

"A two year study in Israel found that high use of antibiotics among toddlers meant that day care centres were acting as hot-houses for resistant bacteria, and said that they should be seen as major targets for intervention."

"Here we tend to think of resistant bacteria as a hospital problem. Because of the lack of reporting requirements, there is no way to track the spread of resistant bacteria in the community, particularly in vulnerable locations such as rest homes or day care centres - or to pinpoint where action should be taken."

Ms Kedgley said an urgent strategy was needed to reduce the amount of antibiotic use in human medicine and in agriculture - ideally to less than half the present level.

"It's time for the Government to stop procrastinating on the issue and prohibit the feeding of antibiotics as growth promotants to animals, and the spraying of streptomycin on stonefruit, tomatoes and apples.

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