A new investigation by USA Today is sending out a health alert on the spread of the antibiotic-resistant MRSA bacteria.
New strains of the dangerous bacteria, once associated only with hospitals, are spreading nationwide.
In recent years, new strains have emerged in community settings such as schools, prisons, and NFL locker rooms. MRSA cases among vulnerable children are climbing 10 percent a year.
But cases across the general population are vastly under-reported. In 2011, about 80,000 life-threatening cases of MRSA were reported but hospital billing records show nearly 460,000 people were hospitalized with MRSA that year.
MRSA infections affect hundreds of thousands of Americans each year in various ways, from minor skin boils to deadly pneumonia, claiming up to 20,000 lives.