An increase in the presence of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA in the Ottawa Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was first reported in mid-November when four babies were reported as positive for the bacterium, although not infected.

Staphylococcus aureus Image/CDC
Staphylococcus aureus

The hospital updated the situation last week noting that seven babies currently in the NICU have tested positive for MRSA, including one with infection. There have been no new transmissions over the last week.

A focused effort to end the spread of the antibiotic resistant bug continue as the hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control team and NICU staff are working to eliminate possible sources of the bacterium and prevent further spread. Already vigilant housekeeping and hand hygiene measures are being reinforced.

As an extreme measure, all staff who have come into contact with our NICU patients were  screened to check if they may also harbor MRSA, and if so they were treated. This measure is being undertaken to ensure that we have addressed all possible factors in this outbreak and can minimize the risk of transmission as much as possible.

MRSA is a common species of bacteria found in the nose, on the skin and in the lower intestines and rarely causes any problems. Under certain circumstances, for example in premature infants whose immune systems are still developing, MRSA can lead to blood, lung or skin infection which  can be treated with antibiotics.

MRSA can be passed on to other people through touch.  It can survive on hands and on normal surfaces short periods of time. However, with proper use of alcohol hand gels and good hand washing, it is easy to kill, the hospital stated.