Coming to Terms with MRSA

The deaths of two youths from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus has galvanized the publics attention on MRSA, a foe that infection control practitioners (ICPs) have been fighting in hospitals for years. Now that the concept of community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA) has invaded the psyches of Americans, its no doubt we will see widespread concern and a real opportunity to educate people about this pathogen and ways to prevent its spread in the community and back into the healthcare environment. For a look at how urgent the need is to curtail healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs), dont miss the Perspectives piece on page 10.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released new data that shows us just how dangerous MRSA is. Released in its latest News and Numbers report, the AHRQ reports that 1 of every 20 (or 5 percent) of the approximately 368,600 patients treated in U.S. hospitals in 2005 for MRSA died. Most of the patients who died of this antibiotic-resistant staph infection were elderly or low income. The death rate for hospitalized MRSA patients was higher than the 4 percent death rate for hospitalized tuberculosis patients, another potentially deadly illness. The AHRQ also found that:

  • Approximately 332 Medicare patients per 100,000 were hospitalized for MRSA compared to 184 Medicaid patients and 29 patients with private insurance. The rate for uninsured patients was 43 admissions per 100,000 people.

  • Men were more likely to be hospitalized for MRSA (107 admissions per 100,000) than were women (92 admissions).

  • People in the South were 27 percent more likely (113 admissions per 100,000) to be hospitalized for MRSA than those in the Northeast and Midwest (89 admissions per 100,000 population). People in the West fell in between (96 admissions per 100,000).

This AHRQ News & Numbers summary is based on data in Infections with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in U.S. Hospitals, 1993-2005, Statistical Brief No. 35. The report uses statistics from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of inpatient stays in all short-term, non-federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

A good review of the basic facts relating to MRSA can be found on the CDC Web site using the keyword CA-MRSA. I encourage you to be prepared to discuss them with patients and their family members and visitors, as well as the individuals you encounter outside of work, such as your friends, neighbors and the people with whom you interact in public. You have a tremendous amount of knowledge about the contraction and prevention of contagious diseases that these people need now more than ever if MRSA and other community-acquired infections and the panic they can cause are to be kept in check.

The good news is, there are thousands of you out there who are fighting the good fight against infections. One of them is San Francisco resident Barbara DeBaun, RN, MSN, CIC, whom we have named as the 2008 ICT Educator of the Year. Barbara embodies the spirit and determination ICPs have about preventing infections and serving as an educational role model in everything she does. To meet her, please turn to page 12.

At press time, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) was preparing to hold its second conference on MRSA; look for a summary of this event, as well as a comprehensive update on legislative issues relating to infection prevention, in the January issue of ICT.

Until next month, bust those bugs!

Kelly M. Pyrek
Group Editor, Virgo Publishing Medical Group