MRSA is a strain of a common bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus. Staphylococcus Aureus can be found in healthy people in the nose and on the skin. Approximately one-third of the population have this bacteria on their body. Generally it is harmless but can sometimes cause infections.
MRSA is resistant to some of the antibiotics we commonly use to treat these infections, meaning MRSA can be more difficult to treat. Therefore special precautions are taken when MRSA is found to be present on hospital patients.
Screening for MRSA
We screen every patient admitted to our hospital. We swab the patients nose and in some cases we swab their groin and any wounds as well. If MRSA is found in a specimen, the patient will be told.
What happens if a result is positive?
To reduce the risk of the bacteria being passed to other patients, it is necessary for an Isolation (single) room to be provided. Staff will wear gloves and aprons on entering the room to minimize the risk of spreading MRSA. A sign will be put outside the door saying “isolation” so staff know to take the necessary precautions. A treatment regime will also be commenced.
What is an MRSA infection?
When MRSA causes an infection, this means that the MRSA bacteria are causing the person to be ill. It can be a mild infection causing redness and swelling at a wound site but it can also cause more serious chest or blood stream infections. If a patient has an infection caused by MRSA then antibiotics, other than Meticillin, are used.
How can MRSA be treated?
MRSA does not always cause infection however all patients with MRSA detected on the skin or nose are given treatment when in hospital. This consists of a five day regime of an antiseptic body wash and antiseptic nasal cream.
Repeat swabs are taken 48 hours following completion of the regime. If this treatment is unsuccessful then the regime will be repeated. During this time several sets of swabs will be taken to monitor progress. When three negative screens have been collected, each one a week apart, then the patient is considered free of MRSA and no longer needs treatment or isolation.
Are there any side effects of the treatment?
The treatment has few side effects and generally any side effects will be mild, such as skin irritation. If you develop a rash, speak to the nurse or doctor looking after you for advice.
How does MRSA spread?
MRSA is a problem throughout the world and it is most commonly spread from person to person by touch by adhering to hands and clothes. It is often present without us being aware of it and without causing us any problems.
Hand hygiene – staff and visitors
All staff and visitors must decontaminate their hands by washing thoroughly with soap and water when visiting a patient with MRSA. Patients are also encouraged to ask staff whether they have washed their hands.
Can I visitor a patient with MRSA?
Healthy people are at low risk of harm from MRSA. Visitors will be asked to thoroughly wash their hands after visiting and are advised not to visit other hospital patients.
What happens at home?
At home there is no need to be concerned about MRSA, precautions are needed only when in Hospital. Once you are at home, you can carry on as normal. Your GP will be informed of the fact that you have been treated for MRSA. They will discuss with you any necessary follow-up. If you come into hospital again, a routine check is made to make sure the MRSA has not come back.
How can I help reduce healthcare associated infections?
- Infection prevention and control is important for the well-being of our patients and so we have procedures in place that our staff follow.
- Keeping your hands clean is an effective way of preventing the spread of infections. We ask that you, and anyone visiting you, use the hand sanitiser available at the entrance to every ward before coming in to and on leaving the ward.
- In some situations hands may need to be washed at the sink using soap and water rather than using the hand sanitiser as hand sanitisers are not suitable for use when dealing with patients who have symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.
Are there any occasions I shouldn’t visit?
For infection prevention and control purposes and to keep you safe and well visitors are asked not to:
- Visit you if they are unwell
- Sit on your bed or use the patient toilets.
- Touch your wounds, or any medical devices, drips or catheters.
Even if you are visiting a patient with no symptoms you must still wash your hands entering or leaving the ward.