ER Workers Often Infected with MRSADec 30, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Two new reports released by the Annals of Emergency Medicine have concluded that health care workers in emergency departments—so called ERs or EDs—of hospitals are often found to carry a dangerous infectious bacteria, said Reuters. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, seem to be much more prevalent in this population than first thought, putting untold numbers of patients at risk for the often dangerous, sometimes deadly infection, Reuters pointed out.
It has long been known that health care workers test positive for MRSA from time to time; however, the two new studies found that the incidence is much more frequent, placing the health care workers deep into the MRSA mix according to Dr. Elise O. Lovell from Advocate Christ Medical Center, Oak Lawn, Illinois, said Reuters Health. In the first study, Lovell and her colleagues found that, based on nasal swab testing from a sampling of 105 emergency department staff at Advocate Christ Medical center, 16 staff—or 15 percent—tested positive for MRSA and included 12 nurses, two technicians, and two doctors, reported Reuters.
In the second study, Dr. Brian P. Suffoletto and colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Emergency Medicine looked at 255 emergency department health care workers and found that nearly one-third—31.8 percent—of the nasal cultures tested positive for S. aureus, with MRSA showing up in 4.3 percent of the cases. "The varying prevalence among the different health care workers was unexpected," Suffoletto told Reuters Health.
In an earlier report conducted by Newsday, Dr. Susan Donelan, a specialist in adult infectious diseases at Stony Brook University Medical Center, told Newsday.com that, “about 30 percent of the population carries Staphyloccoci.” Both Lovell and Suffoletto urged proper infection control practices be routinely followed in ERs. "It's been demonstrated repeatedly that these hygiene techniques are poorly followed in the ED, yet they represent the best (and simplest) way to minimize the spread of MRSA between our patients and to keep our patients and ourselves safe," Lovell told Reuters.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta (CDC) explains that MRSA can be transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact and usually begins with a small pustule or boil. According to the CDC, all MRSA infections can be treated early with drainage and antibiotics. If not treated early, MRSA can lead to pneumonia, bloodstream, or bone infections that can prove serious and sometimes deadly.
According to the Mayo Clinic, MRSA is caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, or staph, and is a strain that is now resistant to broad-spectrum antibiotics. The Mayo Clinic also points out that the majority of MRSA infections originate in hospitals or other health care settings (health care-associated MRSA, or HA-MRSA). However, another type of MRSA has been emerging outside of health care settings (community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA) that includes serious skin and soft tissue infections and a serious form of pneumonia.
In the United States, there are approximately 95,000 serious infections and 20,000 deaths due to MRSA each year.