Following a bike accident, Jimmy Jr. needed knee surgery hoping to be strong enough to play high school football. Instead he acquired MRSA (methicilin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a contagious antibiotic-resistant infection. Three years and nine surgeries later, Jimmy Jr. spends most of his time in bed unable to move comfortably. “Everything is different now,” said his father, Jim Toolen of Sumter, SC, who also pays the price for this potentially deadly infection. He contracted MRSA while caring for his son’s open wounds.

Last year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately 94,000 people develop serious MRSA infections each year and almost 19,000 of them die. 86% of these MRSA infections are picked up in hospitals and other health care settings, like nursing homes and dialysis centers.

The Toolen family shouldn’t have been punished for going to the hospital, but fortunately, more people are noticing the devastation MRSA can cause. If Governor Schwarzenegger signs SB1058, which is now on his desk, California will become the fourth state to require hospitals to screen patients for MRSA on admission. The three other states are Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Research published earlier this year in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that universal screening is associated with substantially reduced rates of MRSA clinical infection. Skeptics have said universal screening would “limit a hospital’s flexibility to design infection prevention programs” but most hospitals have been too lax in protecting patients. Patients deserve better.