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Why Are We Talking About MRSA? World MRSA Day

September 30, 2021

October 2 is World MRSA Day. Awareness of MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is more important now than ever before. MRSA is a type of staph infection that is resistant to most types of antibiotics. This is antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, which occurs when microbes – bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites – become resistant to medications used to disable or kill them. They are often called superbugs.

Staph infections are common

There are several types of staph bacteria and they are very common. One in three people in the United States carries some type of staph bacteria on their skin; more than 3 million of them carry MRSA, according to an article published by University of Florida Health. The bacteria are not usually a concern for healthy people as long as they stay on the skin, but if someone cuts their skin or sustains some type of injury, the bacteria can enter the body and cause an infection. This infection can lead to sepsis. MRSA is especially worrisome for people who have a compromised or impaired immune system. They are already at risk for developing any kind of infection.

Arch G. Mainous III, PhD, said in the article, “MRSA can be part of normal body flora, but it can lead to infection when immune systems are compromised, especially in people who are hospitalized, have underlying disease, or after antibiotic use.” Mainous is a professor in the department of health services research, management and policy at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.

MRSA infections usually are on the skin and they appear as a bump or infected area that might be:

  • Red
  • Swollen
  • Painful
  • Warm to the touch
  • Full of pus or other drainage
  • Accompanied by a fever

MRSA can also cause other infections though, like pneumonia.

MRSA cases in hospitals increasing

With COVID-19 dominating healthcare since early 2020, infection prevention has been a mantra. The public was encouraged to maintain social distancing, wash their hands more often, wear masks, and get vaccinated against the virus once vaccinations became available. Healthcare workers wore personal protective equipment (PPE) in addition. So it may be surprising to learn that healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs), including MRSA, actually rose significantly in 2020.

A study published in September 2021 found that while MRSA infection rates had been dropping since 2015 up to the end of the first quarter of 2020, numbers rose by 34%, in the last three quarters as the hospitals began treating more and more patients who had COVID-19. The authors suggested that this rise in infection rate could be due to staff shortages in the hospitals, which resulted in increased patient loads.

In an article discussing the study, published by the University of Minnesota, David Calfee, MD, agreed that staffing was likely an issue that contributed to the infections, but so was the fact that some hospitals had to give care in other venues not normally used for patient care, as well as staff members who were not used to working in critical care and the procedures and equipment needed. Dr. Calfee is the editor-in-chief of Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Attention to infection control is vital

The president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) issued a call to action in a statement in early September. Ann Marie Pettis, BSN, RN, wrote, “The new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing dramatic increases in healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) during 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, are quite troubling and must serve as a call to action. As a nation we must take significant efforts to bolster our infection prevention and control programs throughout the healthcare continuum.

“The new report highlights the need for healthcare facilities to strengthen their infection prevention programs and support them with adequate resources so that they can handle emerging threats to public health, while at the same time ensuring that gains made in combatting HAIs are not lost.”

The public can help reduce MRSA infections

The public can help reduce the number of MRSA infections both inside and outside the hospital setting.

In the community:

  • Wash hands well before touching any wound or opening in the skin.
  • Clean all wounds well.
  • Cover wounds to protect them from bacteria.
  • Don’t share personal items, such as razors.
  • Seek medical help if there are any signs of infection, such as redness, inflammation, and increased pain around the wound.
  • Complete all courses of antibiotics as prescribed by a healthcare professional
  • Do not take antibiotics meant for someone else.

In the hospital:

  • Remind all visitors to wash their hands well before entering your room, even if they just stepped out for a moment.
  • Wash your own hands frequently.
  • If you haven’t observed a healthcare provider washing their hands before approaching you, ask them to please do so.
  • If you have a catheter, ask daily when it can be removed.
  • Allow the housekeeping staff to enter your room to clean, even if you’re trying to sleep. They may not be able to return at a more convenient time.

 

If you are in the hospital and you suspect you may have infection, mention it to the people caring for you.

If you do develop an infection at home, watch for signs and symptoms of sepsis.

To learn more about antimicrobial resistance, visit EndSuperbugs.org.