Health authorities concerned after rare MRSA-related pneumonia kills boy

    Tonga’s Health Ministry has expressed its concern after the death of a 12 year-old boy from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

    Known as a ‘superbug’ because of its resistance to treatment, MRSA normally occurs among people who have been hospitalised for treatment.

    However, according to the prestigious Mayo Clinic, MRSA infections can occur in the wider community and is spread by skin to skin contact.  People living in crowded conditions are at risk.

    ‘Atunaisa Wilson Mataongo, from Vava’u, died on June 30 after he was infected with MRSA.

    He had been rushed to hospital in Vava’u where he was treated for pneumonia.

    His condition deteriorated and he was flown to Vaiola Hospital in Tongatapu, but later died.

    Health Director Dr. Siale Akauola said MRSA infections were rare in Tonga.

    Dr. ‘Akau’ola told Kaniva News the Ministry was concerned about the existence of the bacteria in the Tongan community.

    Family concerns

    A number of allegations about the boy’s treatment have been posted on Facebook.

    These have been denied by the health authorities.

    The allegations include claims that the boy was given Panadol and told to go home, that complaints of a stomach ache were ignored and that his mother was told to stop over-indulging the boy.

    Dr. ‘Akauʻola said the doctors in Vava’u treated the boy appropriately for Staph Aureus pneumonia. He received the same treatment when he arrived at Vaiola hospital in Tongatapu.

    “The medical treatment could not fight against the bacteria and he eventually died,” Dr. ‘Akau’ola said.

    He said the boy’s condition had already deteriorated when he was brought to hospital.

    He said medical staff tried to clarify with the family everything relating to the boy’s sickness and the cause of death.

    Dr ‘Akau’ola said the medical authorities understood the family were frustrated and saddened by the death of their son.

    What is MRSA? 

    According to Health E New Zealand, MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. The term is used to describe a number of strains of the bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, that are resistant to a number of antibiotics, including methicillin.

    What is staphylococcus aureas?

    Staphylococcus aureus is a group of bacteria that live on the surface of people’s skin and inside the nose. It is normally harmless: most people who are carrying it are totally unaware that they have it.

    This group of bacteria can be spread quite easily from person to person through contact.

    Problems occur if Staphyloccocus aureus bacteria are able to enter the body through a cut or wound.

    How is MRSA treated?

    Because MRSA is resistant to a number of different antibiotics, it is harder to treat than nonresistant bacteria.

    However, MRSA is not resistant to every antibiotic and most strains of MRSA can still be treated with vancomycin, teicoplanin and mupirocin.

    For people with weakened immune systems who have become infected with MRSA, the best treatments are with the antibiotics vancomycin or teicoplanin. These two antibiotics are given as injections or through an intravenous drip and so are only given to people in hospital.

    The main points

    • Tonga’s Health Ministry has expressed its concern after the death of a 12 year-old boy from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
    • ‘Atunaisa Wilson Mataongo, from Vava’u, died on June 30 after he was infected with MRSA.
    • Health Director Dr. Siale Akauola said MRSA infections were rare in Tonga.
    • ‘Akau’ola told Kaniva News the Ministry was concerned about the existence of the bacteria in the Tongan community.

    For more information

    MRSA (Mayo Clinic)

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