Saturday, May 25, 2013
More Than 40 Babies Affected By MRSA At Providence Neo-Natal Unit
Hospital asked for state help in stopping spread of infection
ANCHORAGE-It has been more than six months since Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)-the drug-resistant staph infection-was discovered on babies in Providence Medical Center's neo-natal intensive care unit.
More than 40 babies have been affected and, as the Eye Team found, the MRSA outbreak is still causing problems, even after the state was called in to help stop the spread.
Of those babies, “four to five” of them are currently colonized with MRSA, Providence officials say.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Public Health says it has issued multiple reports to Providence with recommendations on how the hospital can stop the spread.
A Providence spokesperson says the staff has quarantined and treated any and all babies who have been affected.
“It's a very, very vulnerable population with the neo-nates,” said Dr. Michael Cooper of the infectious diseases unit with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “These kinds of colonizations and outbreaks with MRSA can go on for months and sometimes years.”
The MRSA outbreak in the Providence NICU has been going on since March. In those six months, dozens of babies have been found with the same MRSA strain on their skin, in their noses or in their tracheas.
“It is not clear at all where it came from,” said Dr. Michael Acarregui, executive medical director of The Children’s Hospital at Providence. “We haven’t been able to identify a source. I think there are some thoughts about a particular baby that may have been initially colonized.”
A smaller number of babies were actually infected with MRSA, but neither state nor hospital officials would say exactly how many.
“A couple of the babies have had surgeries for some stomach issues and they found the MRSA growing there,” Cooper said.
It’s a potentially dangerous situation for the smallest of patients who often already have weakened immune systems.
“Any infection is cause for alarm and treatment, and they were all handled appropriately and very quickly,” Cooper said.
Normally, hospital infection outbreaks are handled solely by the hospital. But in this case, the outbreak was so big, Providence called in the state to help to “give recommendations and not only try to find a source, but equally as importantly, stop this infection as quickly as we could,” said Cooper.
Over the last few months, as many as eight state public health employees have been working with Providence, observing doctors and nurses in the NICU, trying to find and stop the spread of the MRSA strain.
“There were very minor lapses found here and there,” Cooper said. “That is common in every single unit of every single hospital across the country. If you were to send a team in and do observations (you would see) a couple of breaks here and there with hand washing; inadequate cleansing between patients of a bed or device.
“I think the lapses that have occurred are not uncommon in intensive care units. But at the same time, we are working hard to correct all of those,” Acarregui said.
Inadequate washing and disinfecting may have added to the spread of MRSA in the NICU, but so far, the source of the infection has not been identified.
“We can surmise, we can try to guess what might have happened, but at this time, there is no smoking gun,” Cooper said.
With no clear answers about a source, state health officials are focused on finding common denominators between the MRSA cases to figure out why some babies were infected and others were not.
But, Cooper said, this MRSA outbreak could take many more months, and even years, to completely eradicate.
Providence officials say there has not been a MRSA infection in the NICU since May, which they say means what they are doing to fight the bacteria is working.