MRSA: When a Hospital Stay Turns Deadly
When asked to imagine a hospital, what do you picture? You probably think of hospital beds, IVs, friendly nurses in colorful scrubs, and above all, an extremely sterile, healthy environment. But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Due to negligent care, surgical mistakes, or other forms of medical malpractice, hospitals can quickly become a breeding ground for deadly infections. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, over 1.7 million hospital patients acquire a new infection during their stay, and 99,000 of those patients die. Along with sepsis, one of the most common hospital acquired infections is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
What is MRSA?
Staphylococcus bacteria, colloquially known as staph, causes MRSA. Staph is actually a fairly common bacterium — in fact, about 25% of healthy people carry it without showing symptoms. When staph enters the body, however, usually through a cut or other wound, it can cause a variety of health issues, ranging from minor skin infections to rare flesh-eating infections. Thankfully, antibiotics save many people from staph-related infections . . . but antibiotics are also part of the problem.
Due to frequent or excessive antibiotic use, certain strains of staph can become immune. This leads to infections that cannot be easily defeated by common antibiotics like methicillin, amoxicillin, or penicillin. MRSA, as implied by the “methicillin-resistant” in its name, is one of these infections.
The main characteristic of MRSA is bumps on the skin. These bumps often resemble pimples or spider bites. These areas may be warm to the touch or filled with pus, and these symptoms are frequently accompanied by a fever. When MRSA is effectively diagnosed, the infection remains confined to the skin, where it can be treated through surgical drainage or other procedures. However, if left untreated, the infection can spread to the bloodstream, where it can affect things like bones and joints, internal organs, or the urinary tract. Once it enters the bloodstream, MRSA is very difficult to treat, due to its resistance to antibiotics. As it progresses, it could lead to sepsis or death, particularly for elderly people or people with compromised immune systems.
When Malpractice Leads to MRSA
When MRSA occurs in a hospital setting, it may be an issue of medical malpractice. A variety of negligent or reckless practices could lead to MRSA, including:
- Unsanitary conditions
- Surgical errors
- Failure to diagnose
- Delay in treatment
- Misuse of antibiotics
Staph may be a common bacterium, but that doesn’t mean that MRSA needs to be accepted as something that happens in the hospital — because with proper care, treatment, and attention, no one should ever get sicker when they go to the hospital.
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