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Date of last update: 10/12/2017.

Forum Name: Other infections

Question: Casual Contact with MRSA Patient

 TumblingThoughts - Fri Aug 20, 2010 12:31 am

Hello, I am currently in nursing school, and a recent incident has been troubling me for about a week now.

I entered the room of a patient with contact isolation for MRSA, and I was planning only to talk to the patient from the doorway.

After minutes, the patient asked me to help her unwrap the toothbrush, which she had been holding in her hands since I first walked into the room.

I'm ashamed to say I must have forgotten the contact precaution at this time, so I walked into the room, took the toothbrush from her hands and unwrapped it, WITHOUT WEARING GLOVES.

Quickly realizing my mistake I left the room, used an alcohol-sanitizer, then still feeling guilty I washed my hands with soap and warm water, making sure to scrub all the way to my elbows (as I was wearing a short sleeved scrub-top that day.)

Even later, when I got home from work I cut my finger nails making special precaution not to cut or break any of the skin surrounding my nail beds.

In all honesty, I am both quite anxious and guilty feeling for my rookie-mistake, and I will continue to assess the 2 red dots, but my question is,

should I be more alarmed? Should I get myself tested? & if so, how much does a MRSA test cost assuming health insurance doesn't cover it (as of now, I have no idea if this is covered by mine.)
 Debbie Miller, RN - Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:47 pm

User avatar Hello,
You have taken all the precautions that should be necessary. Unless you developed an infection somewhere in your body where the bacteria could grow, you will not get it from casual contact, especially with good handwashing. Gloves and other precautions are helpful for sure but the hand washing and/or sanitizing is adequate in most cases. You would have to have a route of entry for the infection. Our skin is a normally good barrier. If you did become infected somehow, there would be symptoms of infection. MRSA just indicates it is a resistant strain of bacteria (resistant to the usual antibiotic treatments). This is only a problem if you actually get infection in your body somehow. Does this make sense? Just being exposed to a person with this infection does not mean you get it, especially if you are healthy and using normally good hygiene.

About 1% of the population have this bacteria in their noses without ever getting infection from it. The risk is the greatest in a person whose immune system is depressed and due to illness, etc. they are unable to fight the bacteria. They are already weakened and therefore susceptible to the bacteria. This is usually the case with hospital associated MRSA.

If you are to be a nurse, you will be exposed to many infections. Make it a habit to use good hygiene, regardless of gloves and other protection. It is important for you not to obsess over every exposure but to use reasonable good sense and judgment.

Best wishes.

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