Tuesday, October 16, 2007
MRSA - It's preventable
Everywhere I turned today, I was engaged in discussions about methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) and tonight I read a new article in JAMA that says it is twice as prevalent as we thought.
MRSA is a common skin bacteria-Staphylococcus aureus-that has become a "bug on steroids" and is resistant to penicillin, methicillin and other drugs that used to kill it flat. It has developed over time and 85% of infections are associated with hospitals and long term care centers. When it enters the skin barrier through incisions or IV lines, it can cause serious internal infections and is a leading cause of death.
Staph aureus is found in the nose and respiratory tract and healthy people can be carriers. It can live on clothing and curtains and (I've heard but not verified) that in England they are prohibiting physicians from wearing ties because of possible contamination.
MRSA infections are preventable and the bacteria is killed by topical alcohol.We've known that hand washing saves lives since Philip Ignaz Simmelweis discovered clean hands save lives in Vienna in 1847. He was fired, by the way, for such an outlandish idea that physicians should wash before they deliver babies or do surgery!
Topical alcohol based hand rubs, hand washing between patients, using infection control protocols for IV and line placement and screening for and isolating carriers of MRSA are all ways to drop this infection rate to zero. Paul Levy, the blogging CEO at Beth Israel Boston has been openly revealing his hospitals efforts to reduce MSRA and all hospital acquired infections. This is something that we should openly discuss, tackle as health providers and each of us help our colleagues remember to wash so we can drop these infection rates pronto.
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