Hospital Infections – Understanding MRSA, VRE, and C-Diff

by Howard Gerber on September 26, 2013

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hospital infectionsIf you work in a healthcare facility, you have likely heard of hospital acquired infections. Infections, such as MRSA, VRE, and C-diff, can be both common and serious in some patients.  Educating yourself on what the infections are and how to prevent spreading them helps keep both you and your patients healthier.

MRSA

MRSA, also known as methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, is a very common infection often acquired in a healthcare facility, such as a nursing home or hospital. The bacterial infection is resistant to antibiotics usually used to treat staph infections. MRSA is often on the skin, but can also be found in the sputum or wound.

Nurses and other healthcare professionals can help prevent the spread of MRSA with a few simple precautions. Patients with a history of MRSA should have a sign on the door to inform workers of the infection. Nurses and others should be diligent about using standard precautions, such as gloves and gowns, when treating patients with MRSA. As always, hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infections like MRSA.

VRE

Vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE) is a type of bacteria, which can cause infection in some people. Enterococci are bacteria that live in the female genital track or the intestines, and are usually harmless. Under certain circumstances, such as in those with a weakened immune system, the bacteria can cause illness. VRE infections may develop in bloodstream, urinary tract, and wounds.

The infection can be spread from patient to patient by caregivers with contaminated hands. Patients with VRE should be placed in contact isolation rooms alone or with others with a similar infection. Make sure you always wear gloves and a gown when treating patients with VRE.  Wash your hands between patients even if you had gloves on.

C-Diff

Another common infection, which is seen in healthcare facilities, is clostridium difficile or C-diff. It is caused by C. difficile bacteria, which can be found in the air, soil, water and some foods. Some people have small amounts of the bacteria in their intestines, and it does not cause any symptoms. If C-difficle is present, good bacteria in the intestines will destroy it, which prevents an infection from developing.

In hospitalized patients who are taking large amounts of antibiotics, healthy bacteria in the intestines can be killed. In some instances, this leaves C-difficle to multiply and cause an infection and symptoms. Diarrhea and stomach cramps can develop. Severe inflammation of the colon can also occur.

C-diff can also be spread by healthcare workers who transmit the disease from patient to patient. Healthcare workers should follow isolation guidelines, which include the use of gloves and gowns when taking care of patients with C-diff. Keep in mind, hand sanitizers do not kill the C-diff bacteria. Always wash your hands with soap and water after patient care.

Using standard precautions and practicing good hand hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent spreading illness on the job. Preventing the spread of infection is not only essential in order to keep your patients healthy, but it helps prevent infecting yourself.

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