Friday, October 14, 2005

Sharp rise in MRSA cases, House told

By Brian Reyes

The number of cases of MRSA contracted locally by patients in St Bernard’s Hospital has risen sharply this year, according to statistics presented to the House of Assembly yesterday.

Ernest Britto, Minister for Health, told the House that 10 patients had contracted the so-called ‘hospital superbug’ in St Bernard’s between January and September.

That compares with 18 cases of locally-contracted MRSA detected between 1996 and 2004, a figure that was given to the House during a session earlier this year.

Mr Britto also revealed that a further seven cases were detected in St Bernard’s during the first nine months of this year, though those patients contracted MRSA while undergoing treatment in UK hospitals.

The minister declined to publicly disclose the names of the UK hospitals where the seven patients had been treated because it was “not in Gibraltar’s best interests.”
But he nonetheless provided the information to the GSLP/Liberals opposition on a confidential basis.

Of the total 17 cases of MRSA detected in St Bernard’s this year, it is the locally-contracted ones that are of greatest concern to health officials.

MRSA refers to a type of bacteria that has become resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics. Healthcare professionals say that MRSA has to be seen within the wider context of “hospital acquired illnesses”.

The Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA) has put in place management systems to ensure the risks are minimised as far as possible.

In the coming weeks, officials at the GHA will be reviewing the current procedures to assess whether or not they need to be further tightened in the light of the latest statistics. The key to ‘infection control’, as the GHA refers to it, is strict hygiene, not just for hospital staff but for visitors too. In an interview with the Chronicle earlier this year, Mr Britto said that there was no cause for alarm.

“But it’s a source for concern because it’s [about] infection control and we need to be aware of it and we need to be on top of it,” he said at the time.

Related Articles and Links:

Information pages about MRSA from National Centre for Infectious Diseases

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