An outbreak is the occurrence of 3 or more related MRSA infections. The infections are related because they stem from a common source.
- The source is the individual from whom the bacteria initially spread.
- In the confinement of a correctional setting, outbreaks occur more often, and have a greater opportunity to spread to other inmates.
- Some authors define an outbreak in the correctional setting by the occurrence of 2 vs. 3 related MRSA infections. The more stringent definition heightens concern, and facilitates a quicker response in this high-risk setting.
Response To a MRSA Outbreak
MRSA outbreaks require prompt action, usually with the assistance of the local health department and/or regional correctional officials. The goal is to:
- Isolate the source (Tracking).
- Prevent the spread of infection (Containment).
MRSA infected inmates are interviewed in an attempt to backtrack to a common source. The source is the person who brought MRSA into the facility. If the interviews do not isolate a source, then surveillance cultures may be indicated. Surveillance cultures may include:
- Cultures of non-infected inmates.
- Cultures of commonly touched objects in community and/or medical areas.
Containment prevents the spread of MRSA infections. For details see below “Secondary Prevention: Preventing The Spread of MRSA”