New protocol can curb infections by 78%

A Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs hospital has cut the prevalence of Methicillin-resistant Stahpylococcus aureus (MSRA) by more than two-thirds by using an aggressive detection and containment program. The new program requires all new patients to undergo a diagnostic nasal swab so that those who are at risk may be isolated behind red painted lines. The lines warn caregivers to don gloves and gowns before entering the area.

According to WebMD, MRSA is a type of “staph” bacteria that proves resistant to most antibiotics. Staph bacteria normally lives on your skin and in your nose and is typically asymptomatic. But in a hospital setting, where the patient’s immune system is already compromised, the patient is at a much greater risk for infection. Most staph infections are treatable, but the MRSA strand does not respond well to the antibiotics that are typically used to combat bacteria.

MRSA has been a growing problem since about 1968, causing infections in surgical sites, the urinary tract, bloodstream, and lungs. MRSA infections now account for 63% of all hospital staphylococcus infections, up from 22% in 1995. The Center for Disease Control has predicted that one in every 22 hospital patients will contract a staph infection this year – totaling 1.7 million new cases. Of those, 99,000 will die from what began as a routine procedure.

The key problem has always been two-fold. The first problem is lax detection protocols, because staph is often brought into the hospital by patients with no symptoms. The second problem is the lack of hand-washing and general cleanliness of hospital attendants.

But the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Pittsburgh has successfully combated MRSA since beginning their program in 2001. Since that year, the hospital has reduced its infection rate by 78%. According to Dr. Rajiv Jain, the hospital’s chief of staff, the program costs about $500,000 a year. But, the program has saved the hospital nearly $900,000 a year because the costs of treating infected patients has fallen.

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