Going to hospital can be very stressful, whether you are being admitted for a minor operation or to be treated for something more serious. Being away from home and your family and possibly having to undergo surgery and painful procedures is an unhappy experience for most people. The only consolation is that you will soon be able to go home after having been looked after by people who are trained to make people better. Or so you thought.
Deaths from MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, doubled in the four years between 1999 and 2003. MRSA is often caught in hospitals by people who have been admitted for a relatively minor operation. Having to go to hospital to receive treatment for appendicitis or for a broken arm can suddenly become a very traumatic experience for someone if they catch a strain of the hospital super bug that of late has been spreading through hospital wards like wildfire.
What is MRSA?
Staphylococcus is a family of common bacteria which many people carry on their skin and can cause mild infection in an otherwise healthy person if it gets under the skin or into the lungs. A more serious infection can occur, such as boils or pneumonia and is difficult to treat when the staphylococcus is resistant to one or more of the conventional antibiotics. MRSA infections can be partly blamed on the overuse of antibiotic for every day illnesses. Many doctors prescribe antibiotics for people with viral infections, knowing that they will not get rid of them. This creates an environment where the body cannot fight infections easily and stronger courses of antibiotics need to be prescribed to get rid of the illness.
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MRSA is caught through contact with a carrier. If it is passed on to a patient who has an illness already then a more serious infection may occur. This is where the problem with hospital caught infection lies and why many people are seeking to make a personal injury claim against health care providers such as hospitals.
MRSA can cause a broad range of symptoms depending on which part of the body is infected. The parts of the body infected can include surgical wounds, burns, catheter sites, eyes, skin and blood. It causes pain and swelling at the site of infection. The two reasons that people in hospital are more likely to catch MRSA are that firstly, people residing in hospitals are generally more likely to get an infection because they are older, weaker and sicker than the general population and secondly, because patients are close together in wards constantly being touched by doctors and nurses who have just touched other patients.
Do hospitals cause infections?
Cleanliness in hospitals is of paramount importance. MRSA is frequently transmitted between patients by hospital staff. Whilst many hospitals are now stringent about hand washing and most wards have antibacterial spray at the entrance of each ward, many cases of infection do slip through the net. Alongside many hospital beds are alarms so that patients can alert staff of a hygiene risk, such as a spillage. Visitors are also encouraged to clean their hands upon entering a ward.
Making a personal injury claim
If you have sustained an MRSA infection whilst being treated for something else then you may be able to make a personal injury claim. If it can be shown that your infection was caused by lack of cleanliness then it is possible that you could seek to claim compensation. In an isolated case it may be difficult to prove that the hospital was responsible for your illness; however when there is a widespread case of MRSA amongst patients then your claim may be brought. You may want to speak to a personal injury solicitor about your circumstances and get free legal advice before you proceed with your personal injury claim.
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