How Washington Hospitals Unleashed an MRSA Epidemic

MRSA, epidemic, bacteria, infectious disease, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, antibiotics, antibiotic-resistant, bugsOver the past decade, the number of Washington hospital patients infected with a frightening, antibiotic-resistant germ called MRSA has skyrocketed from about 140 a year to more than 4,700. But these numbers, revealed by a Seattle Times investigation, don't appear in public documents. Washington regulators don't track the germ or its victims, and Washington hospitals do not have to reveal infection rates.

MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is spread by touch or contact. Six out of seven people infected with MRSA contract it at a health-care facility. Many people first learned about the germ in 2007 when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that invasive MRSA infections claim at least 18,000 lives a year, more than AIDS.

But MRSA has been quietly killing for decades, and the entire time, there has been a simple diagnostic test that could have saved countless lives. However, not a single community hospital in Washington screens every patient for the pathogen.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The issue of antibiotic-resistant disease is a very serious one. It actually exacts a greater death toll than “modern plagues” like AIDS.

Compounding the problem is that not only are potent antibiotics over-prescribed in modern medicine, they are also widely over-used in agriculture – a fact that is grossly overlooked. In fact, agricultural antibiotic use is a MAJOR source of human antibiotic consumption, which contributes to the rise of antibiotic resistant “superbugs” like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

According to a study published in October, 2007 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there were close to 100,000 cases of invasive MRSA infections in the United States in 2005, which lead to more than 18,600 deaths.

To put that number into perspective, HIV/AIDS killed 17,000 people that year.

The numbers are even more staggering when you include ALL hospital infections, not just MRSA, as approximately 1.7 million Americans contracted infections during hospital stays in 2007, and a subsequent 100,000 people perished from these diseases, according to the U.S. Center of Disease Control (CDC).

MRSA is a Man-Made Plague

In order to effectively combat this epidemic problem, it’s important to realize that antibiotic-resistant disease is a man-made problem, caused by overuse of antibiotics. It makes little sense to blame the problem solely on lack of testing, hygiene, or proper disinfection techniques, although all those things are essential to stop it from spreading once it’s in circulation.

Hospitals are notorious for being hotbeds for dangerous germs such as MRSA, which spread via contact with contaminated surfaces, including the patient’s own skin if they carried it in with them.

The average human hand harbors about 150 different species of bacteria, and a swab of your forearm may reveal more than 180 species of bacteria, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Many of these bacteria are good and essential for your very survival. Others, like MRSA, can kill you, especially if your immune function is low or if it enters your internal organs or blood stream, as can happen during surgery.

But hospitals are by no means the only place where you can contract bugs like MRSA.

About 30 percent of people carry MRSA on their skin without any noticeable side effects whatsoever, and outbreaks have occurred that stemmed from places like schools and public gyms. Your house and even your pets are also places that can harbor and spread this dangerous bacteria.

Fortunately, protecting yourself from the devastating effects of this kind of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is still possible, by implementing some commonsense approaches.

Commonsense, All-Natural Approaches to Protect Yourself From MRSA

Aside from avoiding antibiotics as much as possible -- which is an issue that must be addressed on a large scale both within modern medicine and agriculture -- there are ways you can help reduce the spread of infectious disease.

    Wash your hands -- The most important of which is to adhere to proper hygiene, such as washing your hands with soap and water. Handwashing, which is one of the oldest and most powerful antibacterial treatments, may be the key to preventing MRSA (staph infections).

According to a Johns Hopkins study, the best way for patients to avoid such infections is for doctors and nurses to simply wash their hands before touching a patient. This is the most common violation in hospitals. According to findings by The Times, in the worst cases, as few as 40 percent of staff members comply with hand-washing standards, with doctors being the worst offenders.

But even the best hospitals typically boast no better than 90 percent compliance — which means one out of 10 practitioners may have contaminated hands.

Guidelines to proper handwashing include:

  • Wash your hands for 10 to 15 seconds with warm water
  • Use plain soap
  • Clean all the nooks and crannies of your hands, including under fingernails
  • Rinse thoroughly under running water
  • Use a paper towel to open the door as a protection from germs that harbor on handles

Remember to AVOID using antibacterial soaps. These soaps are completely unnecessary and could easily do more harm than good. As a matter of fact, the antibacterial compounds found in most of these soaps are another likely contributing factor to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

    Invest in copper -- Making door handles, taps and light switches from copper could also help defeat antibiotic-resistant superbugs, according to scientists. Researchers have discovered that copper fittings rapidly kill bugs in hospital wards, succeeding where other infection control measures fail.

Lab tests show that the metal can effectively kill off both the deadly MRSA and C difficile superbugs. It also kills other dangerous germs, including the flu virus and the E coli food poisoning bug.

In tests sponsored by the Copper Development Association Inc. (the Latin-American arm of the International Copper Association), a grouping of 100 million MSRA bacterium atrophied and died in a mere 90 minutes when placed on a copper surface at room temperature. The same number of MSRA bacteria on steel and aluminum surfaces actually increased over time.

It is likely that by installing copper faucets, light switches, toilet seats and push plates in germ infested areas, hospitals and nursing homes could quite literally save thousands of lives each year.

You could also consider taking the same measures in your own home, especially if you care for someone with chronically poor immune function.

    Use natural disinfectants – As with antibacterial hand soaps, antibacterial house cleaners are also best avoided. A natural all-purpose cleanser that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Just put each liquid into a separate spray bottle, then spray the surface with one, followed by the other.

    Eat garlic – Researchers have found that allicin, the active compound in garlic, is an effective, natural “antibiotic” that can eradicate even antibiotic-resistant bugs like MRSA. An added boon is that the bacteria appear incapable of developing a resistance to the compound.

However, it is important to note that the garlic must be fresh. The active ingredient is destroyed within one hour of smashing the garlic. Garlic pills are virtually worthless and should not be used.

Instead, compress the garlic with a spoon prior to swallowing it if you are not going to juice it. If you swallow the clove intact you will not convert the allicin to its active ingredient.

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