Testing To See If You Could Get A Staph Infection

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

Maryville (WVLT) -- For about $20, hospitals can check to see if you are susceptible to a staph infection.

So why don't hospitals do it?

Well according to some area hospitals that do run the test, just because it comes back positive doesn't mean you'll get an active staph infection.

It’s an easy test.

"Swab the inside of the nose of the patient, both sides and that is taken down to the laboratory and cultured,” said Lee George, the infection control coordinator at UT Medical.

If it tests positive, it only shows susceptibility to getting an active infection.

"It's just small amounts, a little part of our normal flora,” said Sherry Hillis, infection control coordinator at Blount Memorial. “It is not making us sick but it is there."

Hillis says the amount of tests that come back positive has risen over the years from about four percent in the early 90's to close to seventy percent now.

But who is being tested?

At UT hospital, Lee George says the doctor has the discretion.

Otherwise its all patients who have tested positive in the past, a term known as flagging.

Blount Memorial also flags, but they go a step further, testing all nursing home residents and long term care patients that come to the hospital.

"They've been in and out of many hospitals and many health care facilities,” Hillis said. “Many have had an opportunity to be on antibiotics."

That is the part of a program that led to state recognition just two months ago.

"We actually reduced our rate by fifty percent of hospital onset MRSA with this project," she said.

At twenty dollars a swab, why is everyone not tested?

According to both George and Hillis, just the isolation costs of the patient are very expensive.

Meanwhile they do believe there are ways for hospitals to minimize the MRSA threat.

"Do hand hygiene, wear gloves and wear gowns in order to prevent transmitting it to another patient,” George said.

60 Minutes will tackle the MRSA issue on Sunday when Lesley Stahl reports on the outbreak, what can be done, what isn't being done and what is being done that isn't working.

That's Sunday at 7:00 pm on CBS, right after Volunteer TV News.

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