News | October 31, 2007

New Survey Finds Half of MRSA Patients Received No Information about the Disease

November 1, 2007 - According to a national online survey administered by the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA), 53 percent of patients diagnosed with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) reported they were given no information on the condition at the time of diagnosis.

More than 80 percent of 312 survey respondents said they were not counseled by a healthcare provider on ways to avoid spreading MRSA to family members. Most respondents reported being very concerned about transmission. To fill gaps in their knowledge, respondents reported turning to the Internet and seeking advice from newspapers, friends, and family. APUA contents this lack of patient knowledge could help spread of MRSA among family members.

The survey data also indicate the lack of information can cause patients to feel helpless and take extreme, unnecessary actions. For example, many respondents reported isolating themselves, sending children to live with relatives, or stopping leisure activities.

“The survey raises concern about the potential for MRSA to spread within families when patients aren’t armed with better information,” said Dr. Anibal Sosa, APUA. “But the lack of information is also contributing to the fear we saw in the patients who were surveyed, and causing some to take unnecessary steps that can really decrease quality of life for themselves and their families.”

A study by researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported MRSA infections may be twice as common as previously thought. In 2005, nearly 19,000 people died in the United States from the disease, according to the study. In the past two weeks, two deaths of school-aged children – including a high school student in Virginia and a middle-school student in Brooklyn - have been linked to MRSA.

“What’s important is that we arm patients with information and they understand that there are simple steps they can take to protect themselves and their families,” said Dr. Sosa.

APUA suggests to patients diagnosed with an active MRSA infection and their families:

- Keep MRSA infections covered, and always wash your hands before and after changing the dressing on an infection.
- Wash your hands regularly, especially after being in public places. Wash with soap and warm water for 20 seconds while rubbing your hands together vigorously.
- Do not attempt to drain an MRSA boil by yourself.
- Take all antibiotics given to you by your healthcare provider as directed, even if the MRSA infection appears to have gone away.
- When visiting your healthcare provider, voice any questions that you have.
- Do not share towels, razors, or other personal care products.
- Change towels and sheets regularly, and wash them in hot water with detergent and bleach before using them again.
- Targeted disinfection of surfaces that may have come in contact with MRSA infections or surfaces that people frequently touch is appropriate.

“Everyone needs to understand that MRSA is an infection that can affect anyone, regardless of how carefully they practice good hygiene; having it does not mean you are dirty,” said Dr. Sosa.

The survey was conducted online between Aug. 16 and Oct. 26, 2007. There were 312 respondents, with eligibility defined by having been formally diagnosed with an active MRSA infection. Participants were recruited on MRSA discussion boards and through Google. Limitations of this research include sample bias; only English speakers visiting MRSA-related Web pages were targeted.

APUA is a nonprofit public health organization that has been dedicated to curbing antimicrobial resistance since 1981.

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