You may have heard about MRSA recently in the news, in passing, or maybe you heard that someone may have even died from “…some type of staph infection.” MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is a lethal form of bacteria which is resistant to many antibiotics. Most often, staph infections – including MRSA pose a strong threat to patients (with weakened immune systems), who are hospitalized or in other healthcare facilities.
How can you make a difference?
If you are a healthcare giver, reading this article may help you spare a patient’s life. First and foremost, MRSA is one of the most preventable infections; and it begins with you. While you were growing up, certainly you’d heard your mother say, “Don’t forget to wash your hands before dinner.” Your mother was, and still is absolutely correct. But her common advice applies even more so in the medical community. Per the CDC, “…The main mode of transmission of MRSA is via hands (especially health care workers’ hands) which may become contaminated by contact with a) colonized or infected patients, b) colonized or infected body sites of the personnel themselves, or c) devices, items, or environmental surfaces contaminated with body fluids containing MRSA.”
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there is a “Guideline for Isolation Precautions in Hospitals” (Infect Control Hosp. Epidemiol 1996;17:53-80). This guideline is purportedly widely used and “…shouldcontrol the spread of MRSA in most instances.” However, if this guideline is adhered to, why have too many patient’s lost their lives due to MRSA? Simply put, it is a guideline; but not enough individuals are paying enough attention.
The following Standard Precautions (as published on the CDC) list these guidelines that should be strictly followed:
Wash hands after touching blood, body fluids, secretions, excretions, and contaminated items, whether or not gloves are worn. Wash hands immediately after gloves are removed, between patient contacts, and when otherwise indicated to avoid transfer of microorganisms to other patients or environments. It may be necessary to wash hands between tasks and procedures on the same patient to prevent cross-contamination of different body sites.
Wear gloves (clean nonsterile gloves are adequate) when touching blood, body fluids, secretions, excretions, and contaminated items; put on clean gloves just before touching mucous membranes and nonintact skin. Remove gloves promptly after use, before touching noncontaminated items and environmental surfaces, and before going to another patient, and wash hands immediately to avoid transfer of microorganisms to other patients or environments.
Wear a mask and eye protection or a face shield to protect mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth during procedures and patient-care activities that are likely to generate splashes or sprays of blood, body fluids, secretions, and excretions.
Wear a gown (a clean nonsterile gown is adequate) to protect skin and prevent soiling of clothes during procedures and patient-care activities that are likely to generate splashes or sprays of blood, body fluids, secretions, and excretions or cause soiling of clothing.
- Appropriate device handling
Handle used patient-care equipment soiled with blood, body fluids, secretions, and excretions in a manner that prevents skin and mucous membrane exposures, contamination of clothing, and transfer of microorganisms to other patients and environments. Ensure that reusable equipment is not used for the care of another patient until it has been appropriately cleaned and reprocessed and that single-use items are properly discarded.
- Appropriate handling of laundry
Handle, transport, and process used linen soiled with blood, body fluids, secretions, and excretions in a manner that prevents skin and mucous membrane exposures, contamination of clothing, and transfer of microorganisms to other patients and environments.
If MRSA is judged by the hospital’s infection control program to be of special clinical or epidemiologic significance, then Contact Precautions should be considered.
In addition, hospitals (which demonstrate high MRSA rates) may opt toward the eradication of MRSA by treating all personnel who are MRSA carriers. In the United States alone, the general population will never quite know the exact amount of deaths attributed to MRSA because statistics are not accurately accounted. One possible problem is that S.E.A.R.C.H. (Surveillance for Emerging Antimicrobial Resistance Connected to Healthcare) is comprised of voluntary participants; including hospitals, state health departments, and other healthcare facilities. When participants are voluntary, in my own opinion, statistics cannot be completely accurate; therefore, the incidence of MRSA may be much greater than realized.
But how can five minutes spare a life? Being directly connected to a family member who had acquired MRSA, it is sad that only five minutes could’ve made all the difference. By memorizing, and diligently practicing the above guidelines, MRSA can be prevented. Unless individuals are experiencing the constant health battle, the irreparable physical damages, and even loss that accompany MRSA, it is difficult for some to understand the critical seriousness of MRSA.
If you are a healthcare provider or work in a healthcare environment, please – take five minutes of your time today and reflect on this vital information. Next time, it could be you, your spouse, your child, your parent, your grandparent…MRSA knows no boundaries.
CDC – Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/ncidod/hip/ARESIST/mrsa.htm)
© 2004 – Five Minutes CAN Spare a Life!
By CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd