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MRSA on phones

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MRSA on phones

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A new culprit has emerged in the spread of the tough-to-kill “superbug” bacteria and other infections in hospitals — mobile phone headsets. Turkish researchers testing the phones of doctors and nurses working in hospitals found that 95 percent were contaminated with bacteria including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can cause serious staph infections and is resistant to certain common antibiotics. The team from the Faculty of Medicine at the Ondokuz Mayis University also found that only 10 percent of the staff regularly cleaned their phones. “Our results suggest cross-contamination of bacteria between the hands of health care workers and their mobile phones. These mobile phones could act as a reservoir of infection which may facilitate patient-to-patient transmission of bacteria in a hospital setting,” the authors wrote in their study, published online in the Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials. To combat the spread of disease and infections through contaminated hand-held electronic devices, the authors recommended proactive strategies to disinfect and decontaminate the devices and the practice of improved hand hygiene.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics. These antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin. Staph infections, including MRSA, occur most frequently among persons in hospitals and healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes and dialysis centers) who have weakened immune systems. MRSA infections that occur in otherwise healthy people who have not been recently (within the past year) hospitalized or had a medical procedure (such as dialysis, surgery, catheters) are known as community-associated (CA)-MRSA infections. These infections are usually skin infections, such as abscesses, boils, and other pus-filled lesions.
Sources: Yahoo News 3/6/09, Centers for Disease Control
Look at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HandHygiene/ for more information on MRSA, an organism implicated in many hospital-acquired infections.

My study of hospital acquired intravenous catheter-related infections showed that a study of 276 outbreaks of infections in Neonatal ICUs revealed the organisms most often involved were klebsiella, which was number one, and staphylococci, including MRSA. Blood stream infections were the most common type of healthcare associated infection in the NICU. MRSA can live for up to 11 days on surfaces such as patient charts, laminated tabletops and curtains. Now we know they can live on cell phones.

In September 2008 and April 2009, I taught risk managers about three of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Never Events, which include pressure ulcers, intravenous catheter-related infections, and urinary tract infections. Hospitals are not being reimbursed for care associated with the development of these conditions when they start within the hospital walls. The audiofile and Powerpoint presentation of the April 2009 event will be edited and made available in our webstore. Stay tuned.

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