Most MRSA is transmitted in hospitals and other health care facilities, but there is growing concern about community-acquired drug-resistant staph infections.
At first glance, the latest findings suggest a high prevalence of community-acquired MRSA, but Jarvis says the clinical presentation of the cases indicates that most infections were acquired during previous hospital stays.
Hospital-acquired MRSA can manifest as serious and potentially life-threatening bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, or pneumonia in patients who may have weakened immune systems.
Community-acquired MRSA generally presents as a skin infection and is commonly seen in people who are otherwise healthy.
"The extent of the problem of health-care associated infection is much larger than that of community-acquired infection, but our data suggest that the both are increasing," Jarvis says.
While health care facilities were generally quick to employ recommended practices to prevent the spread of MRSA once the organism had been identified, the survey indicated that delays in diagnosing patients with the drug-resistant staph infection or colonization are placing health workers and other patients at unnecessary risk.
"Some health care facilities are aggressively addressing MRSA, but the scope of this public health threat demands commitment and participation from every facility, at all levels," says APIC President Denise Murphy, RN.
Last fall, the CDC issued recommendations for managing MRSA and other multidrug-resistant organisms in hospitals, stressing the judicious use of antibiotics, frequent hand washing by all medical personnel and support staff, and surveillance.
CDC medical epidemiologist John Jernigan, MD, says it is clear that MRSA can be controlled when proper procedures are followed.
"MRSA is a hugely important problem in U.S. health care facilities, and more needs to be done to prevent it," he says. "Every step of the way these facilities should be closely monitoring MRSA rates, and adjusting their approach to controlling the spread of the organism if these rates aren't coming down.