A study out of Boston finds that one reason MRSA is so stubbornly present in hospitals is because a significant percentage of patients present in the emergency department with the drug-resistant staph infection already onboard.
Five percent may not sound like a significant number, but more than half carried MRSA on multiple sites, according to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, increasing the likelihood of transmission.
Widely regarded as a deadly superbug responsible for close to 500,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths a year in the United States, MRSA is reportedly in decline. But if it's in your hospital (or on your leg), those are the only data points that count.
The good news is that best practices for infection control don't hinge exclusively on costly or complicated measures that may be out of reach to healthcare facilities without deep pockets.
On the contrary, the first line of defense is handwashing, a simple and inexpensive maneuver too often taken lightly by busy hospital staff. Hand hygiene is remarkably effective at reducing rates of infection transmission, but must be reinforced by hospital leaders. Monetary incentives, marketing campaigns, and the pressure of accountability (sometimes via the use of spies) are all effective tools for nudging handwashing compliance upward.