Lynn and Nancy Utesch of rural Kewaunee received the Persons of the Year award last weekend from the MRSA Survivors Network.

They received the prestigious award during the ninth annual World MRSA Day & Global C. difficile Summit held Sept. 30 at the Community House in Hinsdale, Illinois.

Founded in January 2003, the MRSA Survivors Network was the first patient/consumer advocacy organization in the U.S. to raise consciousness concerning the MRSA epidemic and other multi-drug-resistant healthcare-acquired infections.

The Utesches were honored for their efforts to raise awareness of the environmental impact of CAFOs and the overuse of antibiotics in livestock.

“We honor and commend them for raising the alarm and their dedication to educating the public for antibiotic stewardship for livestock, humans and the environment,” said Jeanine Thomas, founder and spokesperson of the network.

Concerned about the growing numbers of concentrated animal feeding operations in Kewaunee County, the activist organic farm couple founded the organization Kewaunee C.A.R.E.S (Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Stewardship) in 2011 to work for environmental change and protection in their community and nationwide.

CAFOs use large amounts of antibiotics and hormones, which produce large amounts of wet manure that contains LA-MRSA (livestock-associated MRSA) and can run off into waterways, Thomas said. Livestock, farm workers and neighboring residents can become colonized with LA-MRSA and acquire an infection, which is hard to treat and antibiotic-resistant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “MRSA is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to several antibiotics. In the general community, MRSA most often causes skin infections.  In some cases, it causes pneumonia (lung infection) and other issues.  If left untreated, MRSA infections can become severe and cause sepsis – a life-threatening reaction to severe infection in the body.”

Kewaunee C.A.R.E.S. has been an alliance partner with MRSA Survivors Network since 2015.