An English study evaluating the prevalence of MRSA (MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in nursing homes has revealed residents and staff are at risk for contracting the bacteria. The sampling 1,111 residents and 553 staff in 45 nursing homes revealed 24% of residents and 7% of the staff were MRSA carriers.
According to Dr. Paddy Kearney, Consultant Medical Microbiologist with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, “We decided to carry out the study after noticing an apparent increase in recent years in the number of patients who had MRSA when they were admitted to hospital from nursing homes.”
Kearney blames nursing homes’ indifference to MRSA as a contributing factor in its prevelence. “In hospitals routine checks are carried out to identify those most at risk of MRSA colonization (carrying it on their skin and/or nose) and infection control policies are put in place but this is not always feasible in private nursing homes.”
Why MRSA is problematic for nursing home residents
MRSA is a strain of staph that’s resistant to most antibiotics commonly used to treat it. In the older population, the ineffectiveness of certain drugs is dangerous because a weakened immune system has difficulty fighting off serious infection. The prevalence of MRSA is believed to be related in some respects to the overuse of antibiotics. MRSA can be fatal.
Medical professionals now use the term, health-care associated MRSA (HA-MRSA) to describe MRSA in a nursing home or hospital setting.
Most strains of MRSA can still be treated with the antibiotic ‘vancomycin’. However, new strains of drug-resistant MRSA are now becoming more prevalent and the use of vancomycin to treat MRSA is becoming less effective. If MRSA is isolated to a wound, doctors may chose to drain the would and not presrcibe any vancomycin.
How To Prevent MRSA In Long-Term Care Settings
- Wash your hands. Scrub hands briskly for at least 15 seconds, then dry them with a disposable towel and use another towel to turn off the faucet.
- Use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol for times when you don’t have access to soap and water.
- Don’t share personal grooming items, such as towels, razors, toothbrushes, bed sheets or clothing
- Keep wounds covered with dry bandages.
- Shower frequently with soap and water.
- Keep MRSA patients separated from the general population
- Take antibiotics as prescribed and don’t share with others
Resources On MRSA
MRSA: Understand your risk and how to prevent infection, MayoClinic.com
Prevalence of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Colonization in Residents and Staff in Nursing Homes in Northern Ireland. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 57(4):620-626, April 2009