MRSA Infection Outbreak Linked to Boston Hospital’s Infection Control

Since November 2008, dozens of mothers and newborn babies have developed hospital MRSA infections after being treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, which has been cited for lapses in the hospital’s infection control practices.

So far, at least 18 mothers and 19 newborns have been diagnosed with MRSA infections, with 10 of the cases requiring additional hospitalization and two involving serious complications.

Massachusetts state health officials indicate that the only common factor among the patients with MRSA infections was treatment at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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An investigation which began in December, has uncovered serious problems with the infection control practices at the hospital, including inadequate cleaning of surfaces used during minor surgery, re-use of medical instruments on multiple babies without properly sterilizing or disinfecting them and poor training of nurses on how to transfuse blood in newborns.

Hospital MRSA infection, also known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a type of staph infection that does not respond to most antibiotics. The bacteria is carried in the nose or on the skin, and can be very dangerous once it reaches the organs or bloodstream.

If it is not diagnosed early and treated promptly, MRSA infection outbreaks can spread quickly and may impact vital organs, such as the heart or lungs. In serious cases, individuals who survive the infection can be left with permanent problems, such as loss of limbs, hearing or loss of use of vital organs.

State health officials have not been able to establish the source of the outbreak, and have asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist in the investigation.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaird Services are also planning to conduct a comprehensive review of the practices at the Boston hospital.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has been asked by the Massachusetts Public Health Department to come up with an immediate plan for correcting its infection control system by today. The hospital’s delivery of babies has not been temporarily halted, as the number of infections is very small in comparison to the 5,000 deliveries every year at the hospital.

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