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What is a ‘superbug’

This is a common term, used by the media, associated with certain organisms (bugs) that have become resistant to antibiotics over time. These organisms are a variation of common skin or gut ‘flora’ – that is; they are normally found on or in us and in these usual places, do us no harm.

When can they harm us?

When the organism gets inside our blood stream, or another part of the body where it is not usual to find it and our body cannot defend against it, such as wounds.

What are these bugs?

The common ones are:
MRSA (Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and Clostridium difficile (also called C. diff). These organisms are destroyed by simple disinfection, and spread prevented by high standards of hand hygiene and cleaning.

Can they be treated?

There are antibiotics that are effective. As the organisms are often part of some people’s normal flora, they are only treated if they are causing infection or if MRSA is found on the skin of someone having major surgery.

Can visitors catch or pass on these bugs?

As these are often ‘normal’ organisms, it is possible that anyone – visitors, patients and staff – can pick up and pass these (and any organism) around. This is why basic standards such as hand hygiene (washing or using alcohol gel) and cleaning are so important in hospitals and other Healthcare facilities, as it prevents this.

What can visitors and patients do to help?

The most important method of prevention is hand hygiene. You can help by ensuring that your hands are decontaminated when entering wards and on leaving. Staff must carry out hand hygiene between every ‘ direct patient contact’, that is any time that they are attending to your clinical or care needs.

Why does the hospital get so many more wards closed with D&V (Norovirus) than other hospitals?

Much investigation, locally and nationally, has taken place as to why this appears to happen. There are many hospitals across the country similarly affected, and we all appear to have the same population age distribution, therefore more elderly folk who may need admitting with symptoms resulting from this infection. If symptoms start after arrival (as they sometimes can) then this may lead to spread despite early isolation within single rooms. If several patients are affected at the same time, the ward may not be able to provide individual side rooms, and patients affected or exposed are cared for in a bay (this is called ‘co-horting) in an attempt to stop the spread further.

Taking affected patients to another ward leads to risk of spread during and after transfer. Norovirus is an illness that only lasts a couple of days, although you may feel very unwell during this time!