MRSA and Other Hospital Infections
Although people go to hospitals seeking treatment for their illnesses and other medical conditions, hospitals can pose serious health risks to patients. Hospitals are required to uphold a certain standard of care for all patients. This includes insuring all hospital equipment and facilities are properly cleaned to prevent the spread of disease. However, for a variety of reasons, these standards are not always met, and this can cause patients to contract serious and life-threatening infections.
The Importance of Sanitation
A nosocomial infection, or hospital-acquired infection, can develop in a patient because of a pathogen that exists in in a healthcare setting. Once a patient is exposed to the pathogen after being admitted for care, the risk of developing an infection significantly increases. The best way to prevent hospital infections is for hospitals to be regularly and thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. When hospital staff fail to uphold the highest standards of cleanliness, patients can contract infections. Doctors and other healthcare providers should always wash their hands before examining each patient, and patients should always voice their concerns about unclean equipment and areas. Some pathogens that are commonly found in hospitals that can cause infections include:
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.
- Methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus or MSSA.
- Mycobacteria which can cause a variety of diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy.
Out of these pathogens, MRSA is one of the most dangerous types of bacteria and can cause serious infections that quickly become deadly.
What Is MRSA and How Dangerous Can It Be?
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that’s resistant to many antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections. Staphylococcus (Staph) is a type of bacteria most commonly found on the skin or in the nose that can cause extreme skin irritations that, if not properly treated, could enter the bloodstream causing more devastating symptoms like vomiting, joint pain, and fevers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers it a “superbug,” due to the difficulty in treating it. MRSA has become resistant to many types of antibiotics because it can evolve at an expedited rate. Since the 1940s when antibiotics were first used to treat bacteria, MRSA has quickly evolved to become resistant to many of the main treatments.
One of the contributing factors to its evolution of resistance is the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Because no antibiotic is completely successful at destroying bacteria cells, small amounts of MRSA can remain having survived after antibiotics, helping the evolution process.
How Do MRSA Infections Happen?
It is estimated that two in every 100 individuals carry MRSA naturally. While this might seem like a small number, hospitals are filled with hundreds of patients with weakened immune systems who are highly susceptible to contracting the condition.
Once MRSA is present in a hospital, it can be spread in a number of ways. MRSA and other hospital infections are most commonly spread through direct contact with an open wound, but can also be spread indirectly by sharing items used by the infected patient. If a healthcare provider fails to wash his or her hands between handling patients, they can unknowingly spread the bacteria via their hands from patient to patient. Additionally, if operating rooms and intensive care units are not properly sterilized, patients can easily come in contact with hospital bacteria both directly and indirectly. While patients with compromised immune systems are highly susceptible to contracting an infection, any patient can become infected, particularly those who are using invasive medical devices like medical tubing, intravenous lines, or urinary catheters.
Infections like MRSA are also common in long-term care facilities like nursing homes where most of the residents have weakened immune systems. MRSA is particularly dangerous in these settings because people are capable of spreading the disease without experiencing any symptoms themselves.
Symptoms Might Not Appear Right Away
While some hospital acquired infections cause symptoms quickly (within a matter of hours or days), it can be months or even years before some infection symptoms begin to show. Because infections can lay dormant for long periods of time, it’s crucial for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to uphold high standards of cleanliness. A patient may go home with a new type of bacteria without showing symptoms and can spread that bacteria to their family and friends. If a family member has a weakened immune system, an infection could quickly develop.
Philadelphia Hospital Infection Lawyers
Hospitals have a duty to provide patients with a safe environment in which to heal, and if they fail to do so, they can be held responsible. If you or someone you love contracted an infection from a hospital, call the experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Lopez McHugh LLP today. Our lawyers have helped many victims of medical negligence recover financial compensation for injuries caused in a hospital setting. Our consultations are free of charge and are always confidential.