It’s been estimated that as many as 10 percent of all patients receive a staph infection during their hospital stay.  What is a staph infection, how serious are they, and can they be prevented?

Staph can be a particularly serious form of a hospital-acquired infection.  Staph, or Staphylococcus, is a germ that many people have on their skin.  It can be deadly when it enters the body through an opening of some kind – a surgical incision, for example – and hits the bloodstream.  From there the bacteria can quickly spread to a person’s heart, lungs, or bones.

How are Staph Infections Spread in Hospitals?

A healthcare provider who has the germ and touches a patient can spread staph.  Dirty medical devices that puncture the skin, such as catheters or IV lines, are also potential sources for staph infections.

Staph infections acquired at nursing homes or hospitals, therefore, largely are preventable.  Doctors and nurses need to wash their hands thoroughly before and after seeing each patient.  Those administering IVs, inserting catheters or treating open wounds should always wear gloves.  Hospitals and nursing homes must ensure that rooms and medical equipment are thoroughly cleaned and any device designed for a one-time use be properly disposed of and not employed again.

Some infections can lead to sepsis, which often  is life-threatening.  Most staph infections can be treated by antibiotics, applied locally in the case of skin infections or internally when a staph infection has entered the bloodstream.

Superbugs and Hospital Patients

But there are staph infections resistant to antibiotics.  Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which first appeared in hospitals some 40 years ago, is one strain resistant to most commonly used antibiotics.  It’s often referred to as a “superbug.”

The MRSA germ exists on skin as well as other surfaces, including fabric and metal.  So it can be found on bed rails, TV remotes, doorknobs and other common hospital and nursing home room fixtures.

The media recently reported that a new superbug fungus, called Candida auris, has been found in a growing number of U.S. hospitals.  Like MRSA, this fungus can be transmitted by touch or through the use of non-sterile medical equipment.  Many attempts to treat it with anti-fungal medicine have been unsuccessful.  Some put the fatality rate from this newest superbug as high as 30 percent.

With today’s understanding of staph transmission, patients should reasonably expect that healthcare providers adopt w measures that provide adequate protection from serious MRSA infections.  The number of MRSA infections has dropped in recent years – more evidence that they are indeed avertable.

If you suffered severe harm or had a loved one die from a hospital-acquired infection or other type of preventable and serious medical error, contact a medical malpractice attorney to determine all responsible parties and obtain justice on your behalf.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles on May 30, 2017