The late Tom Anderson, the family doctor in this little farm town in northwestern Indiana, at first was puzzled, then frightened.
He began seeing strange rashes on his patients, starting more than a year ago. They began as innocuous bumps ? ?pimples from hell,? he called them ? and quickly became lesions as big as saucers, fiery red and agonizing to touch.
They could be anywhere, but were most common on the face, armpits, knees and buttocks. Dr. Anderson took cultures and sent them off to a lab, which reported that they were MRSA, or staph infections that are resistant to antibiotics.
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) sometimes arouses terrifying headlines as a ?superbug? or ?flesh-eating bacteria.? The best-known strain is found in hospitals, where it has been seen regularly since the 1990s, but more recently different strains also have been passed among high school and college athletes. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that by 2005, MRSA was killing more than 18,000 Americans a year, more than AIDS.
So I made plans to come here and visit Dr. Anderson in his practice. And then, very abruptly, Dr. Anderson died at the age of 54.
The larger question is whether we as a nation have moved to a model of agriculture that produces cheap bacon but risks the health of all of us. And the evidence, while far from conclusive, is growing that the answer is yes.
Science and Environmental Health Network