Health Alert: MRSA attack plan

NATIONAL - MRSA keeps making headlines in the schools, but historically, its roots are in our nation's hospitals. Now there's a program to help hospitals cut the risk and spread of infection from the superbug. This innovative approach, called positive deviance, is making a difference.

After breast cancer surgery, Donna Shinn had another battle on her hands, the drug-resistant superbug, MRSA.

"I just know that I was in a private room and just outside my room they had a special sink and everything, for everyone to wash down before they came in to see me," Donna explained.

The precautions are part of 'positive deviance' - a stepped up attack plan on the superbug.

Curt Lindberg says, "In the hospitals that have had the most experience with positive deviance, we've seen declines on the order of 50%."

PD is based on the principle that solutions to problems already exist. The idea is to engage everyone from housekeepers to lab workers to put that knowledge into practice.

Lindberg says, "It becomes their job then to look among their colleagues to find out the good practices that are achieving better results. So it's kind of finding what's working and then doing more of it."

Dr. Trish Perl says, "What has changed here really has been the ground swell of involvement and the engagement that we've been able to get in this staff."

At Johns Hopkins, the PD campaign is called "STOMP" - for Stop Transmission of MRSA Permanently.

Dr. Perl says "we're pushing hand hygiene. We're getting 'em, you know, alcohol gels all over the place. Wash your hands."

Dr. Wendy Ziai, "We've also taken a number of steps to try to decrease transmission coming into the hospital. We're requiring all visitors to wash their hands with the chlorhexadine, the Purell wash before entering the unit."

Incoming, high-risk patients are swabbed for the MRSA germ. If a test is positive, the lab can immediately page the floor nurse to put the patient in isolation.

"We are looking into new forms of environmental decontamination to take place, you know, in the unit once the patients that are at high risk or who are infected have left those rooms to try to decontaminate those rooms better," said Dr. Ziai.

Posters keep the program's progress front and center while the entire staff bones up on infection control with an in-house version of Jeopardy. But is this "all out" effort cutting MRSA infections?

According to Dr. Ziai, "We used to have a fairly, one of the highest transmission rates in the hospital of any ICU, and we have actually decreased that significantly."

Positive deviance can give positive results.

Taking from lessons learned in the healthcare setting, schools can better protect students from infection. The CDC recommends better hand washing, cover cuts with a clean, dry bandage and avoid sharing personal items. They also suggest schools establish cleaning procedures on frequently touched surfaces.

The positive deviance initiative is supported by the Plexus Institute with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. For more information, click here>>