ZocdocAnswersHow can I reduce the risks of getting or spreading antibiotic-resistant infections when I visit hospital patients?

Question

How can I reduce the risks of getting or spreading antibiotic-resistant infections when I visit hospital patients?

I am a 56 year old woman pastor of a small congregation. Sometimes I visit members in the local hospitals, and sometimes they are infected with antibiotic-resistant infections, especially MRSA (a staph infection). Besides using the hand sanitizer that is at the doorway to every room, how can I reduce risks to myself and others? Are these infections airborne or only passed through contact? Is it true that these so-called "super-bugs" like the water flowers are in? Is it safe for me to give blood after exposure to these patients, even though the Red Cross has not yet listed precautions about this?

Answer

The risk of passing antibiotic resistant infections is difficult. In fact this is a question that many infectious control experts are working on diligently. I would talk to your doctor regarding specific details with respect to your health and your specific risks. There are many type of super bugs. One of the most common that you mention is MRSA or methicillin resistant staph aureus. Staph aureus is a type of bug, and methicillin resistant means that it is resistant to methicillin (a type of penicillin). By implication if it is resistant to methicillin it is resistant to many of the bugs. This specific infection is not air borne. This is passed through contact. It can also live on other objects, so touching an object (like a bed or chair) that the infected person has touched might transmit it. Hand washing is key to preventing transmission. If you are going form room to room it is probably worthwhile to wear a protective gown and gloves to protect your clothing (these should be available as the doctors and nurses will wear them before entering hte room). The bug will likely not infect you, but simply live on your skin (colonize your skin) and therefore giving blood should not be a problem. There are many other infections - some of which are airborne, like the flu. Some like in water, but not all. Talk to your doctor. If you have specific medical conditions this could change your exposure risks.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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