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I’m sure everyone else thinks the big news today is the announcement by the Washington State Health department requiring hospitals to report MRSA cases to the state. I think the cool news is their on-line database. We’ll get to that a bit later.

What is MRSA?
MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It’s a serious pathogen that causes skin infections and greater damage if it enters the body.

The Seattle Times report – a quick summary
For the past three days the Seattle Times has been running a series on hospital-acquired cases of MRSA. According to the report, 6 out of 7 people with MRSA were infected in a health-care facility.

[11/20/2008 note: I edited the link above to use the permanent link]

One of the interesting points made by the Times is that testing patients can minimize some of the problems. For example, testing patients before surgery would identify people with MRSA living on their skin. Those people would be at much greater risk of MRSA infection and should be handled with special precautions.

According to the Times, however, hospitals have resisted testing patients for MRSA despite studies showing that this information can help in controlling the spread of infections.

Hospitals will have to report cases, but they won’t have to test for MRSA
The newly announced decision by the state health department will be helpful in requiring hospitals to report cases, but it doesn’t go far enough. Hospitals still won’t be required to test patients for the presence of the bacteria.

Patient advocacy groups are pushing for reform
Our current financial crisis has reminded us that institutions can have difficulty policing themselves. In the case of MRSA, former patients are pushing hospitals to start doing the right thing. Some of these groups are the MRSA survivors network, the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, and the Consumers Union.

Search the Seattle Times MRSA database
I think the most interesting piece from this report is the Seattle Times on-line MRSA database.

If you’re going to be hospitalized in Washington state, you can search the database and find out about the number of MRSA cases in that hospital.

You pick your hospital from a menu, select your county, and click the Search button.

The Seattle Times already wrote about Harborview, so I decided to see the data for the University of Washington Medical Center.

The database report showed that UW has 450 beds, and in the past ten years, a total of 620 cases of MRSA. It would have helpful to know the average number of patients that are seen at the UW each year, but it’s impressive enough to see a newspaper making an on-link database like this and opening it up to the public.

The data from UW are below.


It’s also important to remember that UW doesn’t test all their patients for MRSA, so we don’t really know all the patients who had it, we only know about some of them.

Until hospitals really start to measure the number of patients with MRSA, it will be difficult to know the number really changes.


  1. #1 Jeff Goldman
    November 21, 2008

    One area often overlooked in the battle against the transfer of dangerous infectious diseases in medical environments are the ubiquitous keyboards and mice. Standard keyboards and mice can not be disinfected because germs collect around and in seams and under keys. Recently Man & Machine, Inc. released a White Paper titled, “Minimizing Transmission of Infectious Disease in Heath Care Environments by Use of Disinfectable PC Keyboards and Mice.” It can be viewed at: http://www.man-machine.com/whitepaper.htm

  2. #2 Alan Waxman
    November 21, 2008

    We are a small bootstrap company that has been told has no business getting involved in MRSA related profilactics. So we do! The problem about MRSA and keyboards and mice is resolvable. Here’s how: Cupron, an American company in North Carolina has a technology that permits their copper-based antimicrobial compounds to be blended with various polymers. You need to contact Jeff Gabbay, CEO to get the real skinny on this. But, if you visit their website you’ll be in the right place. Cuprons heritage comes from the Isreali Defense Forces and they are light years ahead of us on the antimicrobial front. Unfortunately, their lessons on copper dating back 5000 years have to be validated by some bureaucrats. We have also succesfully applied copper as an antimicrobial on polyolefin film and cast polyurethane that covers bed rails, shopping carrts, etc. The film can be dye cut for keyboards, etc. Our work has been tested at ATS Labs in Minnesota and you are welcome to a copy of the report. Unfortunately, our little company lacks the funding to make a splash, but the coating technology we have will eventually be known. Our mission is to apply copper-based antimicrobial on ANY surface from IV poles to Jungle Gym poles and we are so far the only ones to be able to do it cost effectively on site from a mobile unit. After we recover from the exhaustian of raising capital and getting past the EPA/FDA hurdles, we’ll tell the rest of our story.

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