MRSA in Nursing Homes

MRSA in nursing homes is a scary reality that is becoming increasingly common. MRSA, short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a staph infection that can not be treated with most antibiotics. MRSA precautions in nursing homes must be taken to protect those with weakened immune systems from serious complications or even death.

What Is MRSA?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by a type of Staphylococcus (staph) bacteria. Staph is a prevalent bacteria that about 1 in 3 people have either on their skin or in their nose, making it one of the more common types of infections.

Staph doesn’t often cause complications, but it can sometimes lead to:

  • Blood infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Sepsis
  • Skin infections
  • Wound infections
  • Death

Staph germs are usually treated with antibiotics when they cause infections. However, some staph germs are resistant to these antibiotics, which means they can no longer be killed by them. MRSA is this type of antibiotic-resistant organism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 63% of bacteria don’t respond to traditional antibiotics.

Most MRSA infections happen to people who have been in health care settings, such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, and nursing homes. In these cases, the infection epidemiology is known as HA-MRSA, or health care-associated MRSA.

HA-MRSA can be spread by healthcare workers or residents touching unclean surfaces. In these cases, it may be a warning sign of nursing home neglect.

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Is MRSA Common In Nursing Homes?

MRSA in the elderly is a growing problem, especially among those who are treated in health care facilities, including nursing homes.

Although the spread of MRSA infections is most common in hospitals, people with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly population, are more susceptible to carrying it. Additionally, the elderly population tends to have a long history of taking antibiotics, causing them to develop resistance.

The combination of a weakened immune system and frequent antibiotic use make the elderly population especially susceptible to MRSA, making the infection increasingly common.

Causes of MRSA in Nursing Homes

MRSA in nursing homes is most likely to occur in patients with other health conditions and risk factors.

These may include patients who have:

  • Been treated with antibiotics
  • Had certain procedures like surgery or dialysis
  • Invasive medical devices, such as catheters
  • Wounds on their body

MRSA in nursing homes is also caused by being close to another patient with an MRSA infection. This is because the bacteria can easily spread on unclean hands or surfaces.

When a person has MRSA, they are at a higher risk for developing an infection from it. In turn, the first step of an MRSA infection is carrying the germ (also called becoming colonized with MRSA). Decolonization, when antimicrobial or antiseptic agents are given, may be effective in infection control.

Symptoms of MRSA Infection

MRSA infections can start off as being minor but can become serious if they are not treated properly. If the infection is related to a wound from surgery or a urinary tract infection (UTI), it can be especially dangerous since these can turn into bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

A more serious staph infection may include the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Malaise
  • Muscle aches
  • Rash
  • Shortness of breath

What Are the First Signs of MRSA?

Symptoms of a regular staph infection, including MRSA, are red, swollen, and painful areas on the skin.

Early MRSA symptoms may also include:

  • Drainage of pus at the site
  • Fever
  • Skin abscess
  • Warmth around the infected area

The red areas on the skin can quickly develop into deep abscesses that require surgical draining. It is therefore important to treat MRSA infections early. If they are not treated, MRSA infections can quickly spread throughout the body and cause serious injuries or death.

Diagnosing MRSA in Nursing Homes

MRSA in nursing homes is diagnosed based on the severity of the symptoms.

A doctor may recommend one of the following tests, depending on the extent of the infection:

  • Blood culture
  • Culture of drainage from the infection
  • Culture through saliva if pneumonia is suspected
  • Skin biopsy and swab from the affected area
  • Urine culture if a UTI is suspected

The approach a doctor takes to diagnose MRSA in nursing homes will depend on the symptoms. Although results take about 48 hours, newer tests that detect staph DNA are being used more regularly.

MRSA Life Expectancy

MRSA in nursing homes is a complex matter. Dying from an MRSA infection is a sad reality for many nursing home residents — as many as one-third of people who develop sepsis from MRSA pass away.

“Despite representing only 13% of the population, 45% of hospitalizations and 70% of the deaths associated with an MRSA infection occur in patients over the age of 65. Nursing home residents are a particularly vulnerable elderly subgroup that is at an elevated risk of developing invasive MRSA infections when hospitalized.”

– Current Translational Geriatrics and Experimental Gerontology Reports

The life expectancy of MRSA patients in nursing homes decreases when the infections travel deeper into the body. If MRSA reaches the bones, lungs, or bloodstream, patients typically develop other illnesses. This means that patients can die from the sepsis or pneumonia that was caused by the initial MRSA infection.

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MRSA Treatment for Nursing Home Residents

Treating MRSA in nursing homes depends on how severe the infection is. If MRSA symptoms are only a local skin infection, a doctor may choose to drain the abscess in their office.

More serious nursing home MRSA infections must be treated with antibiotics, such as:

  • Vancomycin (Vancocin®, Vancoled®)
  • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim®, Bactrim® DC, Septra®, Septra® DS)
  • Linezolid (Zyvox®)

The most severe cases of MRSA in nursing homes are treated in a hospital and may require supplemental oxygen and intravenous (IV) medication. If kidney failure occurs, dialysis may be needed.

MRSA Precautions in Nursing Homes

MRSA precautions in nursing homes begin at the most basic level, which is ensuring good hygiene in residents. Handwashing should be done frequently, and antimicrobial hand sanitizers should be used. Personal items such as razors or towels should not be shared.

Nursing home employees should take regular MRSA precautions such as:

  • Carefully cleaning rooms and medical equipment
  • Cleaning hands with soap and water before and after caring for each patient
  • Covering residents’ wounds with clean and dry bandages
  • Using contact precautions when caring for patients with risk of MRSA

Since MRSA in older adults is a growing problem, taking proper MRSA precautions in nursing homes is the best defense. Both residents and health care personnel can perform very basic steps to prevent MRSA in nursing homes.

These steps include:

  • Washing hands regularly
  • Using gloves
  • Implementing infection control strategies
  • Keeping a close watch on wounds

These simple steps are shown to be effective infection prevention that reduces the transmission of MRSA. Facility owners and administrators should educate their employees on standard MRSA precautions in nursing homes.

File a Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit

MRSA prevalence in nursing homes is a sad reality due to a number of factors. However, with proper staff training and appropriate MRSA precautions in nursing homes, the incidence rates can be kept under control.

If MRSA in nursing homes is not treated properly, residents can be left with permanent, long-term injuries. Some of the complications are so serious that death can occur, all from what started as a simple infection.

Infections such as MRSA should never be taken lightly, as they are often a red flag for ongoing nursing home abuse or neglect.

If your loved one suffered from complications due to MRSA, get a free case review now to see if you can file a nursing home lawsuit.

You deserve justice. Get a free legal case review now.

Author:Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team
Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team

Nursing Home Abuse Justice was founded to shine a light on nursing home and elder abuse. Every day, thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are abused. Our team helps educate seniors and their loved ones on the common causes, signs and preventions of nursing home abuse. We report on real-world studies and current events from respected news outlets to expose this national problem.

Last modified: April 13, 2021

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  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.) Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Retrieved March 26, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/community/patients.html

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