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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    MRSA Puts SBU on High Alert

    A series of reports on the growth of ‘superbugs’ in several states has directed public attention to how hospitals and schools are faring against the decades-long threat.

    The recent emergence of MRSA on Long Island, with a total of six students infected, has also put residents on high alert as community-acquired MRSA has increased among student populations.

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention published in the Journal of the American Medical Association a report that estimated that nearly 19,000 people died in the U.S. in 2005 after being infected with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA-more than the number killed by HIV/AIDS.

    Stony Brook University has stepped up its game by cleaning surfaces in lockers rooms and athletic and training facilities with Environmental Protection Agency-registered disinfectants effective against MRSA. These are the same type of products used at the Stony Brook Medical Center.

    In December, a study released in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found that MRSA-related hospitalizations nearly doubled between 1999 and 2005 from 127,036 to 278,203.

    Hospitals across the country have stepped up the fight against all sorts of infections.

    At Stony Brook University Medical Center, doctors have been focusing on the ‘active surveillance of patients’ and clean hygiene, said Francina Singh, the co- director of health care epidemiology at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

    Patients admitted to the hospital are not immediately checked for signs of MRSA or any other type of infection. However, if doctors notice anything suspicious, they direct these patients to those from Infection Control, who look over the patients to check for symptoms, Singh continued.

    There are two types of active surveillance. Doctors first check for any visible signs, usually around wounds, the pectoral area and groin area. Patients with suspicious symptoms undergo ‘isolation upon admission,’ Singh said, as doctors create cultures to check for signs of infection. In the case of MRSA, cultures usually take 48-72 hours to determine the patient’s status.

    Although Staphylococcus aureus, commonly referred to as staph, has been a common cause of infections, MRSA has a relatively short history.

    Since 1961, a strain of staph called MRSA, has been discovered in hospitals and associated with persons with weakened immune systems.

    MRSA can be divided into two categories. Community acquired MRSA and hospital onset MRSA. Patients who have MRSA within the first 72 hours after admission into the hospital are considered community acquired MRSA patients. Patients who are found to have MRSA after staying 72 hours at the hospital are considered hospital onset.

    However, it is difficult to determine if these patients suffered from community-acquired MRSA or hospital-onset MRSA since culturing often takes 72 hours, Singh said, and ‘it is difficult to tell if they are colonized.’

    In addition, Stony Brook Medical Center seems to have a substantial number of MRSA patients because ‘it is state owned and we accept all patients,’ Singh continued.

    Many surgical care intensive unit or SICU patients are high risk. Often, they are ‘cross-transmitted’ to other floors or rooms to protect other patients. A large number of patients from the Long island Veterans Home, LISVH, are another high-risk population.

    Patients found with MRSA are isolated from others and assigned single rooms. But these restraints put a burden on the wait for the Emergency Room, Singh said.

    Stony Brook Medical Center is not alone in these respects.

    Many states are requiring hospital-acquired infection reporting. Hospital reporting infection laws are not standard and many hospitals across the nation have chosen to keep their results private.

    New York is not one of these states. A law was passed in 2005 requiring hospital-acquired infection rates. A law passed this year in New York also requires hospitals to report rates of certain types of infections to the State Health Department. In 2009, these hospitals will receive ‘report cards’ based on their results. ‘

    Some hospitals have even decided to voluntarily post their information public. The North Shore-LIJ Health System has voluntarily begun online posting of hospital infection Rates and other performance information.

    Stony Brook Medical Center has not mentioned their infection rates. However, they did hold a public education forum on MRSA in the middle of November. A set of Stony Brook doctors was on a panel explaining MRSA with Delthia Ricks, a Newsday reporter, hosting the event.

    The panel included Susan V. Donelan, M.D., an adult Infectious Disease specialist and Medical Director, Infection Control, Sharon Nachman, M.D., Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Jorge L. Benach, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Infectious Diseases.

    ‘MRSA does not spread through the air, but rather through contact from infected skin lesions, nasal discharge or from hands,’ Donelan said.

    The experts explained what MRSA is, prevention procedures and answered questions about the many rumors regarding MRSA.

    When asked about Stony Brook hospital’s MRSA rates, Singh preferred to remain quiet. However, she did say, ‘We do not have a single patient who died of MRSA. They also had other complications.’

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