MRSA infection tracked locally

By Sarah Meyer: CNJ Staff Writer

Plains Regional Medical Center treated 151 patients last year for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, according to a hospital official.

Joy Stoddard, infection control and occupational health nurse at PRMC, said none of the MRSA infections were acquired in the hospital. She was not aware of any local deaths caused by the disease.

Essentially a regular old staph infection that’s resistant to first-line antibiotics, the so-called “superbug” causes 94,000 severe infections each year with 19,000 deaths, according to a recent federal estimate. Of these infections, about 86 percent are healthcare-associated and 14 percent are community-associated, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Presbyterian Healthcare, the parent company of PRMC, began tracking the infection this year in response to recommendations from the Institute for Health Improvement and the CDC, said Elizabeth Brophy, spokesperson for Presbyterian Healthcare in Albuquerque. The numbers are used to measure safety goals and develop prevention plans, she said.

PRMC has implemented “a very aggressive hand-hygeine program,” Stoddard said, to prevent the spread not only of MRSA, but of any infectious disease.

MRSA patients are put in private rooms; if no private room is available, they will be put in a room with another patient who has the same infection, Stoddard said.

Approximately one-third of the U.S. population carries the bacteria that causes staph infection; less than 1 percent carry MRSA, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• What it is: MRSA is a bacterial infection that has developed resistance to penicillin and related antibiotics. It can be treated with other antibiotics, but if untreated, the resulting infection can take over the body and cause death.

• Cause: Staph infections occur when the bacteria gets into an open wound.

• Symptoms: The first sign of such an infection is a pimple, rash, boil or open wound. The infection can appear as redness, warmth, swelling, pus and/or pain, and may be accompanied by a fever.

• Most at risk: People in healthcare facilities, in crowded living conditions, in close-contact sports and with weakened immune systems, said Gayla Jaquess, nurse manager for Curry Field Office of the New Mexico Department of Health.

• Prevention: Mainly involves cleanliness, particularly frequent and thorough hand washing, Jaquess said. Wounds should be cleaned, treated with antibiotic cream and covered with a bandage.

Hard surfaces touched by many people can be sanitized with disinfectant, Jaquess said. And items that can carry bacteria — towels, personal items such as nail clippers and razors, and cosmetics — should not be shared.

Source: New Mexico Department of Health