A few years back, MRSA – which was referred to as a superbug – often made headlines. Today, MRSA has drifted from the news and was replaced by other infections and illnesses, such as Ebola in 2015; this year, Zika virus is making the headlines.
With MRSA off the front page, does that mean it’s also out of the hospitals? The answer is not entirely. There is good news and bad news when it comes to MRSA. Although some progress is being made, MRSA is still a common problem in healthcare facilities around the country.
The good news is, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA infections due to central line placement have decreased by 40 percent from 2008 to 2013. Also encouraging is an eight percent decrease in bloodstream infections from 2011 to 2013.
But there is also bad news. MRSA continues to be a public health concern and is still prevalent in both healthcare facilities and communities. MRSA infections also continue to increase the length of hospital stays and healthcare costs.
While serious hospital-acquired MRSA infection rates fell in the last decade, incidences of community-acquired MRSA have not decreased. In fact, community-acquired MRSA infections appear to be on the rise. As more and more of the general population becomes infected with community-acquired MRSA, it’s logical to think it will also spill over into the hospitals.
A study published in the December 2015 issue of The Journal of Infection Control and Epidemiology indicated that more than 50 percent of hospital-acquired cases of MRSA were the community-acquired strain.
Get The Facts
Healthcare workers are on the frontline when it comes to fighting MRSA infections. As a nurse, you might already think you know enough about MRSA, but do you? The more you know, the better prepared you are to take the needed precautions to prevent the spread of the infection. Consider some of the following facts:
- MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which means alternative antibiotics must be used to fight infections, such as doxycycline, rifampin and minocycline.
- About a third of the population are colonized with staph. Of that percentage, about two out of every 100 now carry MRSA.
- MRSA most commonly develops on the skin or in a wound, but it can also be found in sputum.
- The transmission route for MRSA includes indirect and direct contact, oral to fecal route, respiratory and airborne droplets.
What Can You Do?
Although some healthcare facilities screen all patients for MRSA, many do not. There may be instances where you are unaware a patient even has a history of MRSA.
Having a history of MRSA is becoming common. Because it’s so prevalent, many hospitals do not require contact isolation procedures for people with only a history of MRSA. Still, even if a patient does not have an active MRSA infection, standard precautions should be used with all patients. There are also a few other things you can do.
Be aware of cross contamination: Cross contamination remains an issue in some healthcare facilities, and it can easily occur. Even if you are not touching the patient, you can still spread bacteria. Problematic areas for cross contamination include bedside tables, bed railings and bedside chairs, which are areas that you may frequently touch in a patient’s room. In addition, many facilities also have computers at the bedside for charting, and keyboards can easily become contaminated.
Although patient’s rooms are cleaned, it’s unlikely all surfaces, such as bed railings, are cleaned during a patient’s stay. Keep in mind, MRSA can live on a surface or object for several weeks, which is why it’s so important always to use gloves and wash your hands or use an alcohol-based gel or foam when you leave a patient’s room.
Practice good hand hygiene: It may seem like a no-brainer to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently before and after patient care even if you were wearing gloves. But it still should be stressed. Some facilities have implemented a handwashing surveillance system where staff are monitored to make sure they are washing their hands.
Wear PPE: Personal protective equipment is a must when it comes to decreasing cross contamination and keeping yourself safe. Nurses can sometimes become complacent when treating patients. All nurses are going to use PPE if they are placing a catheter or suctioning a trach. But if you are only running in a room for a minute to check blood pressure or an IV pump, you might skip the gloves and gown and think it’s no biggie. But that’s how cross contamination occurs.