The Prevention of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
Touch a person who carries the MRSA bacteria or touch something that an infected person has touched and MRSA may spread. That is how easy it is. To understand how to prevent MRSA we must first focus on how it is spread.
The spread of MRSA can be linked to openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions, contact with contaminated items and surfaces and close skin-to-skin contact, crowded living conditions, for example hospitals and poor hygiene. Of course some people are more at risk than others. In conjunction with understanding how MRSA is spread, we must know who is most at risk before we can attempt to role out prevention strategies.
People At Risk From MRSA
Those people at particular risk are hospitalised patients, people over the age of 65 and premature/newborn babies. It is important to note that for a nursing mother who has MRSA, some antibiotics can enter breast milk. The spread of MRSA is not however, inevitable. Efforts to prevent the spread can work at a number of levels. The strongest emphasis should be placed on individual responsibility.
MRSA Prevention and Individual Responsibility
- Wash hands thoroughly for at least 15 seconds and ideally, dry them with a disposable towel. Family and close contacts should be advised to wash their hands frequently.
- Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol and use it regularly.
- Cuts, abrasions and any other kind of wound should be cleaned and covered with sterile and dry bandages until they completely heal. Never touch other peoples’ wounds or bandages. We can prevent MRSA bacteria from spreading by covering infected sores (from which the pus may contain MRSA).
- Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed by a doctor.
- Linens should be sanitized. Towels, bed linens, clothes and so forth, should be subjected to a hot water setting. A hot dryer is preferable to air-drying. This helps to kill bacteria.
- At the very beginning, if a skin infection requires treatment, the request should be made for MRSA testing. The quicker MRSA can be identified, the stronger our efforts to prevent it spreading.
There exists a common argument that only healthcare professionals need to know about an individual’s MRSA infection. This logic should be firmly re-examined. Perhaps the spread of MRSA could be in part, attributed to this thinking. A more open approach, informing school staff and any other individual who might come into contact and therefore be at risk, might prove more pragmatic if MRSA is to be prevented.
Preventing MRSA in Hospitals
The introduction of surveillance systems that track bacterial outbreaks and products such as antibiotic-coated catheters and gloves that release disinfectants may certainly help. Additionally, patients infected or colonised with MRSA should be placed in isolation. However, without the complete and absolute compliance of healthcare staff with procedures preventing the spread of MRSA, prevention efforts will be undermined.
Preventing MRSA – Healthcare Staff
The very highest standards of hygiene must be enforced.
- Healthcare workers must wash and dry their hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Healthcare workers must use the antiseptic solutions like alcohol rubs or gels provided.
- When changing dressings, handling needles, inserting an intravenous drip, or when having any kind of physical contact with open wounds, healthcare staff should be wearing disposable gloves.
- Healthcare staff have a responsibility to ensure that hospital surfaces are properly disinfected and any kind of non-compliance should be reported.
- We should consider the impact of continuous educational and training programmes (additional to that already in place) specifically on the prevention of MRSA. Furthermore, reintroducing hospital matrons might impact positively, preventing any slip in hygiene and cleanliness standards.
Preventing MRSA – Hospital Visiting
When visiting a patient in hospital, hands must be washed before and after visitation. Alcohol gels must be used regularly. No physical contact with a patient known to be infected with MRSA should be made (nor is it allowed). Furthermore, avoid wherever possible, physical contact with any of the objects inside the isolated room or a patient with MRSA.
Preventing MRSA – The Role of The Patient
Ideally, before a patient goes into hospital, the individual can be screened for MRSA, particularly if falling into a high risk group. A hospitalised patient can make the following efforts to prevent the spread of MRSA:
- Hands and body should always be clean and products, such as towels, never shared;
- Hands should be washed after using the toilet;
- Hands should be washed before eating a meal;
- Report any failure to maintain complete cleanliness and the highest standards of hygiene to hospital staff;
- Open wounds or damaged skin should never be touched;
- Never walk on hospital floors in bare feet.
MRSA can be prevented and does not have to spread at the rate we have recently witnessed. MRSA prevention measures should be taken at all levels if prevention strategies are to be successful and a reduction in infections realised.