MRSA :: MRSA screening essential to stop hospital infections

Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D., Chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID) and a former Lt. Governor of New York State, is announcing a model MRSA screening bill and calling on state lawmakers to enact this lifesaving measure. In New York State, the bill will be carried by Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn of Flushing, New York. Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have already enacted screening bills.

“Today’s data presented in the Journal of the American Medical Association show that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus hospital infections (MRSA) are three times as numerous and far deadlier than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously admitted,” says McCaughey.

“For fifteen years, the CDC counted only those infections that are diagnosed while the patient is still in the hospital. Twice as many patients pick up the germ in the hospital, but show symptoms only after being discharged.”

Research shows that you cannot prevent MRSA hospital infections until you identify which patients are bringing the bacteria into the hospital. Patients who unknowingly carry MRSA shed it in tiny particles. They don’t realize they have it, because the germ doesn’t make you sick until it gets inside your body via a catheter or other method. MRSA can live for up to 90 days on fabrics such as privacy curtains and lab coats, and repeatedly contaminates caregivers’ hands.

“There are at least fifty studies demonstrating the effectiveness of these precautions,” explains McCaughey, “and virtually none showing that it is possible to eradicate MRSA without screening.” Furthermore, according to a recent study in the medical journal Lancet, “virtually all published analyses” show that “the costs of caring for patients who become infected with MRSA are much greater than the costs of screening programmes.”

The MRSA test is noninvasive — a simple skin or nasal swab. “New York City is the hospital capital of the nation, treating more patients and employing more hospital workers than any other city. It is astounding that hospitals here are failing to take the essential precautions to protect their patients from deadly MRSA infections,” says McCaughey. “Screening is an essential precaution and the law should require it.”

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