Dr. Carl J. Abraham Jr., of Infectious Disease and Control Consultants, will present the results of a community intervention designed to reduce the number of persons with skin infections, especially those due to the superbug MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus).
In fall of 2009, thousands of Jonesboro area children and adults were taught about the importance of proper hand hygiene and what to do if a skin infection was suspected. The study showed a 30% decrease in the numbers of persons presenting the emergency room with skin infections.
The project represented a cooperative venture of a number of political, business and educational individuals and groups and was sponsored by St. Bernards Medical Center and Nice-Pak/PDI. Nearly 10,000 children, teachers and workers attended age-appropriate educational assemblie, and more than 1,000 adults attended workplace seminars emphasizing the importance of hand hygiene with alcohol-based products, such as those manufactured by Nice-Pak.
Nice-Pak also donated alcohol wipes stands and dispensers for workplaces, schools and places of worship throughout the city of Jonesboro. “Studies have shown that alcohol is probably the most effective skin disinfectant at killing staph,” Dr. Abraham noted.
Most skin infections are caused by staph and strep. They are common and usually easily treatable, but over the last decade the numbers of people with serious skin infection due to a particular strain of staph, MRSA, has risen dramatically in Northeast Arkansas. Most researchers feel this is because MRSA, has mutated to produce stronger and more toxins. The result has been infections in people without traditional risk factors, such as hospitalization or surgery, and even higher risk in those in the hospital or with impaired immune systems.
Dr. Abraham spoke about the purpose of the study. “In 2006, there was a scare in Jonesboro about children with staph infections. At that time St. Bernards stepped up to educate the public—especially school children, teachers and parents—about staph, how to prevent it and what to do if you thought you had a staph infection.
“We found a 50 percent drop in the numbers of people coming to the emergency department with MRSA infections. That is a very significant number. We wanted to see if we could repeat that in a more formal manner, and I believe we have with the results of this study.
“Washing your hands, especially with an alcohol-based product, quite simply reduces your risk of infection,” Abraham emphasizes.
“I also think it shows two very important things. First, it really is amazing what can happen when a community comes together to work toward a common goal. We could not have done this without the help of everyone involved.
“Second, children appear to be great messengers and bring home what they learn in school. They’ve gotten their family members to stop smoking, wear seatbelts and now wash their hands. The result is dramatic.”
The project was conducted working with the office of the Governor of Arkansas, Arkansas First Lady Ginger Beebe, Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin, Nice-Pak Chairman and CEO Robert Julius, Nice-Pak PDI Hudson Garrett, St. Bernards medical Center, the Jonesboro Public Schools, Drs. Susan Hanrahan and Amy Pearce of Arkansas State University and the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Abraham is an infectious diseases physician at Infectious Disease and Control Consultants LLC and medical director of hospital epidemiology at St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro. He can be reached at (870) 932-7500.