WA Leading Way In Fight Against 'Super Bug'

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Disease control experts are urging other states to follow Western Australia's lead in controlling infection rates for antibiotic resistant 'super bugs' like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

In a letter published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, infectious disease specialists Dr Helen Van Gessel (WA Health) and Dr John Ferguson (John Hunter Hospital, NSW) said the approach taken by WA Health had significantly reduced the impact of MRSA in its hospitals.

WA has the lowest incidence of hospital-acquired MRSA in mainland Australia at just 1.1 per 100,000 people compared to the national average of 4.5 - 4.7.

Rates in NSW / ACT are as high as 6.2 - 8.5 cases per 100,000 people.

The authors estimate that the deaths of up to 158 patients could be avoided each year if other states reduced their MRSA infection rates to those of WA.

WA Health Director of Communicable Disease Control Dr Paul Van Buynder said he was pleased with the success of the MRSA prevention and control program.

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'We recognised some time ago the threat posed by MRSA and our response seems to be paying off,' he said.

'We remain the only state in Australia where MRSA is notifiable and this is supported by a comprehensive infection control policy.

'Monitoring the rate of all types of healthcare associated infections caused by MRSA has been mandatory for WA Health facilities since 2006.

'Since that time, the incidence of hospital-acquired MRSA infections in WA has decreased by more than 50 per cent.

'We also investigate MRSA outbreaks in the community which can help us to detect emerging epidemic strains.'

Dr Van Buynder said MRSA infections were a major cause of illness and death, with serious economic costs for patients and hospitals.

'Wound infections are the most common type of MRSA infection, but infections of the blood stream, bones and joints, lungs and other sites also occur,' he said.

'Thirty per cent of patients with MRSA in their bloodstream are likely to die from the infection.'

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