MRSA control suggestions

Barry NI. Farr, MD, MSc says that isolation of contaminated patients is the key to preventing the spread of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that commonly inhabits the skin of healthy people. Antibiotic- resistant strains of this bacterium caused an estimated 94,360 severe infections in the US during 2005, resulting in around 18,500 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

About 85% of all invasive MRSA infections have been associated with exposure to a hospital or clinic. However, strains of community- associated MRSA are now being found in hospitals. To reduce the risk of infection, the CDC tells the public to wash hands frequently, cover open sores/wounds with bandages, and avoid sharing razors, towels, or other equipment likely to transfer the bacteria from skin to skin.

But Doctor Barry Farr says there are simple ways hospitals can lower their infection risk. First, implement a hand-washing program. Studies show nearly 50 percent of doctors and nurses don't wash their hands between patients. The CDC says this alone could prevent up to 20,000 deaths each year.

Unfortunately, vigilant hand washing programs alone do not stop the spread of infection, which is transmitted via direct contact with contaminated objects or infected people.

He also suggests screening all high-risk patients for MRSA as it is a dangerous and common hospital-acquired infection. Isolate those who test positive. Barry Farr, M.D. says, "If you're not taking this approach, there's a cost to not doing it, which is having high rates of more expensive infections."

It's been used at the University of Virginia since 1980 with great success.