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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Carl Kanefsky, Communications Director
(302) 540-4979, Pager

Date: April 15, 2010


Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) today announced the state's first case of vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) in a 63-year-old Delaware woman. On April 6, lab tests by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) confirmed the diagnosis of VRSA, a rare infection that is resistant to treatment with a commonly used antibiotic. The woman, who has multiple underlying conditions, was diagnosed with VRSA by an acute care hospital in Delaware. The patient had also briefly stayed in a Delaware long-term care facility and received kidney dialysis. The patient was transferred to a Pennsylvania hospital.

VRSA infections can be treated with other, less commonly used antibiotics. To date, the CDC has received only 11 reported cases of VRSA in the nation. None of these cases occurred as a result of transmission from one infected person to another. VRSA appears to develop among patients in hospitals and health care facilities who have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and renal disease, and previous infections with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), other drug-resistant bacterium. Other risk factors include having recent surgery, recent hospitalization, and recent exposure to vancomycin and other antibiotics.

Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacteria, usually causes minor skin infections such as pimples or boils. Staph may cause serious, potentially fatal infections such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia. Approximately 25-30 percent of the population carries staph bacteria in the nose without infection. Widespread use of penicillin and vancomycin led to staph resistance to those antibiotics.

DPH's Bureau of Epidemiology is working with the hospital, long-term care facility and dialysis center where this case received care to test staff members with regular contact with the patient. This precautionary measure may identify potential sources of transmission. DPH advises Delaware's medical community to practice stringent hand washing, to appropriately use barrier and contact precautions such as gloves and masks, and to use antibiotics properly to prevent and control VRSA and other drug-resistant organisms. The CDC website offers infection control guidelines and practices in health care facilities and general information

"We are working closely with the CDC and health care facilities in Delaware to assure that the development and spread of these kinds of infections is minimized," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "As with so many health conditions, the fact that this infection occurred at all is a reminder of the importance of preventing disease through hand-washing and other simple precautions. It is also a reminder that wellness and disease prevention actions that we can take, including maintaining a healthy weight through eating healthy foods, getting enough exercise, and not using tobacco can help protect us from a variety of diseases and infections."

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.