THE BLOG
10/26/2007 03:29 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Hospitals Are Killing Us. But Now the Schools, Too?

Yesterday New York School officials announced that the death of 7th grader Omar Rivera, a student at Intermediate School (IS) 211 in Brooklyn, was related to Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), a dangerous form of bacteria that is resistant to many drugs. School officials, of course, immediately began hosing the place down, and telling the kids to take showers and "not be dirty."

The fact that the schools are killing us is news to us all, but you may not know that the hospitals have been killing us for years. Over the past 20 years, since our push to turn the health care system into a market-driven enterprise, hospitals, formerly controlled by not-for-profits, religious organizations, and charities, got gobbled up by private companies and private equity groups. When the companies started cutting staff in order to boost profits, they just got replaced by a different kind of staph. You see, when they cut the cleaning staff, the rooms were not as clean and they were more likely to spread infection. People were not washing their hands and they were spreading this virulent form of bacteria. A study in the medical journal JAMA in October of 2007 showed that 8,987 people died in 2005 in hospitals and nursing homes from MRSA, and 85 percent of the time they got it from hospital staff, usually because they didn't wash their hands or their room was dirty.

And who do we have to blame for this virulent plague? You, my friend. Yes, you. If you are someone who dragged himself to the doctor with a stuffy nose or a cough and expected a prescription. You see, doctors (of whom I am one) just want to get you off their back, and want you to feel satisfied so that you will come back again some day and pay them another 150 dollars for another useless visit that won't do anything for you. That is because most of the time you have a viral illness that doesn't respond to antibiotics. In fact, half of the time, antibiotics are prescribed for viral illnesses for which they have no effect.

Here is a little Medical School 101. VIRUSES are not the same as BACTERIA. You see, antibiotics are called that because they fight bacteria. Anti-viral agents fight viruses. There are no drugs for colds, sniffles, and most coughs. And flu vaccines are a waste of time and money, but more on that in another blog. If you had strep throat, believe me, you would know it, and that can be treated with an antibiotic.

Why does this matter? Why not take a drug, just in case it might work? Can't do any harm, right? Well, you are wrong, my friend. You see, when you take antibiotics, you kill all of the normal bacteria in your body, the good ones that live in your intestines and other places. In the survival-of-the-fittest scenario, bacteria mutate and develop new ways to fight against that antibiotic. That is how MRSA developed. Since there are no competitors because you have killed them with your useless antibiotic treatment, the bad guys take over.

Got it? So what do you do about your coughs and sore throats? Just wait for it to go away.