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Lethal combo of flu, MRSA caused Maryland family deaths

Two of the three members of a Maryland family who died of flu complications last month also had been infected with the drug-resistant bacteria commonly known as MRSA, according to a report released today (April 26).

All three family members who died were infected with the influenza A virus, and two were also infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the report from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. 

The cases serve "as a reminder that influenza can cause very severe illness and can result in death," the CDC researchers wrote.

News reports have identified the family members as Lou Ruth Blake, 81, and her children Lowell Blake, 58, and Vanessa Blake, 56, of Calvert County, Md. Three additional family members were infected with the flu and two needed to be hospitalized, but neither was infected with MRSA and both recovered, the report said.

People infected with both the flu and MRSA have a higher mortality rate than people infected with only the flu, according to the report.

Signs that a person is infected with both include a rapid worsening of symptoms, and signs of pneumonia.

Two of the three family members who died had been vaccinated against flu, according to the report. Although the influenza vaccine does not prevent all cases of flu, it remains the best method for preventing complications from influenza, the CDC said. The agency recommends that all people over 6 months of age be vaccinated against the flu. Hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes can also prevent the flu from spreading, according to the CDC.

People with severe respiratory illness should be treated with antiviral medications, the report said. In addition, when there's a high suspicion that a bacterial infection exists, treatment with antibiotics should be considered.