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The benefit of screening healthcare workers (HCWs) at risk for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) carriage and furloughing MRSA-positive HCWs to prevent spread to patients is controversial. We evaluated our MRSA program for HCWs between 1992 and 2002.
A university medical center in the Netherlands, where methicillin resistance has been kept below 0.5% of all nosocomial S. aureus infections using active surveillance cultures and isolation of colonized patients.
HCWs caring for MRSA-positive patients or patients in foreign hospitals were screened for MRSA. MRSA-positive HCWs had additional cultures, temporary exclusion from patient-related work, assessment of risk factors for persisting carriage, decolonization therapy with mupirocin intranasally and chlorhexidine baths for skin and hair, and follow-up cultures.
Fifty-nine HCWs were colonized with MRSA. Seven of 840 screened employees contracted MRSA in foreign hospitals; 36 acquired MRSA after contact with MRSA-positive patients despite isolation precautions (attack rate per outbreak varied from less than 1% to 15%). Our hospital experienced 17 MRSA outbreaks, including 13 episodes in which HCWs were involved. HCWs were index cases of at least 4 outbreaks. In 8 outbreaks, HCWs acquired MRSA after caring for MRSA-positive patients despite isolation precautions.
Postexposure screening of HCWs allowed early detection of MRSA carriage and prevention of subsequent transmission to patients. Where the MRSA prevalence is higher, the role of HCWs may be greater. In such settings, an adapted version of our program could help prevent dissemination.
To determine incidence rates of hospital-acquired infections and to develop preventive measures to reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections.
Prospective surveillance for hospital-acquired infections was performed during a 5-year period in the wards housing general and vascular, thoracic, orthopedic, and general gynecologic and gynecologic-oncologic surgery of the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands. Data were collected from patients with and without infections, using criteria of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The infection control team recorded 648 hospital-acquired infections affecting 550 (14%) of 3,845 patients. The incidence density was 17.8 per 1,000 patient-days. Patients with hospital-acquired infections were hospitalized for 19.8 days versus 7.7 days for patients without hospital-acquired infections.
Prolongation of stay among patients with hospital-acquired infections may have resulted in 664 fewer admissions due to unavailable beds. Different specialties were associated with different infection rates at different sites, requiring a tailor-made approach. Interventions were recommended for respiratory tract infections in the thoracic surgery ward and for surgical-site infections in the orthopedic and gynecologic surgery wards.
Surveillance in four surgical wards showed that each had its own prominent infection, risk factors, and indications for specific recommendations. Because prospective surveillance requires extensive resources, we considered a modified approach based on a half-yearly point-prevalence survey of hospital-acquired infections in all wards of our hospital. Such surveillance can be extended with procedure-specific prospective surveillance when indicated.
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