How many lives will MRSA claim?11th June 2008
According to a Panorama report MRSA is claiming 10 times more lives of elderly patients in Britain than anywhere else in Europe.
Hospital bugs claim more than 10,000 lives each year in Britain alone - that's 20 times more than the number of people who die of AIDS. At least 42% of MRSA bacteria in British hospitals fall into the virulent 'superstrain' category, compared with 20% or lower elsewhere.
The estimated annual spend on treatment for superbugs is more than £1bn according the government.
The question then is, what can be done about it?
Hospitals in Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands have managed to bring their rates of superbug infections down to zero. They have achieved this with rigorous rules on hand washing, meticulous cleaning of equipment and hospital rooms and use of gowns and disposable aprons to prevent doctors and nurses from spreading germs on clothing.
Not only could the NHS improve their basic hygiene but could also cut down on bed occupancy which is currently 85% in most NHS hospitals. This makes it difficult to control infection, says Professor Richard James of Nottingham University.
This isn't just a UK problem. Superbugs in the US claim 900,000 lives a year. Many American hospitals spend up to $1m per year just testing patients as they enter the hospital. This is a good thing as 25% of the population carry colonies of the MRSA bacteria on their skin.
The answer for Britian therefore, appears to be to turn to infection control groups for help - the kind of companies that specialise in decontamination, tracking patients and assessing risk of infection.
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