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Hospital Acquired Infections - MRSA

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 11 May 2015 | comments*Discuss
Mrsa Causes Prevention Bacteria Hygiene

Hospital acquired infections (HAI), often referred to as ‘superbugs’ are never seemingly out of the news these days with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or ‘MRSA’, as it’s more commonly referred to, being one of those which has gained the most notoriety over recent times.

Causes of MRSA

There are a number of factors which have contributed to the increase in the presence of the MRSA superbug in our hospitals. Pressures on the NHS to reduce waiting lists and to meet other targets have meant that more people are at risk of contracting MRSA as a result of a larger turnover of patients and a rapid rise in bed occupancy. This increase in numbers and the constraints on hospital budgets have meant that many hospitals have been left short-staffed or they have had to resort to hiring short-term temporary staff whose knowledge and access to sufficient training because of pressures on both time and resources may be more limited.

This, alongside the overcrowding of wards and the rapid changeover from one patient vacating a bed to another one being admitted to it often means that the beds and surrounding areas, whilst clean, may not have been as thoroughly cleaned and sterilised as would likely have been the case if staff were under less pressures. Basically, the causes are usually due to poor hygiene related issues in some form or other.

How is MRSA Contracted and How Does it Spread?

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria - (the ‘SA’ in MRSA) – actually live either in the nose or on the skin of around a third of all of us and do not present any harm. It’s only when the bacteria enters the bloodstream and internal tissues via a wound or surgical scar that it can cause problems with the likes of boils, abscesses and, in more serious cases, septicaemia, pneumonia and both heart valve and urinary tract infections being just some of the problems it can cause. The bacteria can then spread from one wound to another which can cause it to be particularly virulent in overcrowded hospitals where it can be easily carried and passed on from one person to another.

How Dangerous is it?

MRSA is generally benign and causes few problems for generally fit and healthy people but those at risk of suffering more severe conditions as a result of contracting the bug include the elderly, those in intensive care, those who may be undergoing chemotherapy, people with weakened immune systems and babies who are born prematurely.

Treatment and Prevention

MRSA can be treated with antibiotics but it is extremely resistant to them and usually it requires a far higher dosage over a longer period of time and this is normally administered by injection or intravenously. Thorough hygiene is the most effective way of preventing the disease. This means your own personal hygiene in terms of washing your hands each time you eat a meal or go to the toilet, keeping your bed area clean and speaking to hospital staff should you feel that an area around you or a bathroom or toilet has not been cleaned thoroughly enough. Medical staff themselves also have a duty of care to follow proper recommended procedures with regard to hygiene before moving from one patient to another.

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