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Hand washing may be the most effective way to reduce MRSA infections

Category: Infectious Diseases

A nine-year study conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), revealed that hand washing, in conjunction with other simple hygiene measures, reduced the risk of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection by 95 percent in intensive care units.

Many hospitals implement vertical prevention measures, during which they conduct a lab test on cultures taken from patients and quarantine individuals with MRSA. Instead, the VCU researchers took a horizontal approach, where they encouraged everyone in the ward to frequently wash their hands. They found that the hygiene compliance method was not only effective in reducing infections, but it also cut costs.

"Our study showed that using a simple approach over a nine-year period resulted in low rates of MRSA infection," said research author Michael B. Edmond, M.D., M.P.H. "Patient safety is the key benefit to this approach. We found that it not only prevents MRSA, but other infections that are transmitted via contact. It can also save hospitals a lot of money."

Edmond also noted that quarantining patients is detrimental to their health because it can produce anxiety, depression and bed sores, and isolated patients are also visited less frequently by doctors and nurses.

These new findings, according to the researcher, will increase the hospital's efforts in encouraging its staff to wash their hands.

MRSA characteritics
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), reports that MRSA is a type of staph germ, which is passed through skin-to-skin contact. It can spread in hospitals when healthcare providers who have the MRSA bacteria on their skin transfer it to other patients. Serious staph infections such as MRSA are common in people who are in hospitals, on kidney dialysis, inject drugs, have gotten tattoos or have had surgery within the last year.

According to the NIH, most people have a strain of staph on their skin, and it usually does not cause an infection. Staph infections are also known as "colonization," which result in a red, swollen and painful area around the skin.

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