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Public health officials are sounding the alarm about bacterial infection outbreaks in Canada that were previously only confined to hospitals. 

Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) has caused outbreaks in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario. Two deaths in Canada have been linked to the bacteria: a 30-year-old Calgary man and a three-month old infant in Toronto.

CUPE members who work in health care have been aware of MRSA for a while. The bacteria is linked with many outbreaks in hospitals and long-term care facilities across Canada. This recent strain, CA-MRSA, could really have an impact on those who work in child care, education and social services.   

The superbug has hit many U.S. communities quite hard with child care facilities, schools and assisted community living centres susceptible to outbreaks. The bacteria is spread through direct contact from person to person, through open skin wounds or from a contaminated item like a toy, sink, razor or other common items. 

CA-MRSA causes boil-like infections and can, in rare cases, cause hemorrhagic pneumonia or flesh-eating disease. The bacteria, which are resistant to a group of antibiotics called methicillin, could become resistant to other antibiotics and spread at a very fast pace.  

Employers need to be pushed to protect workers from CA-MRSA by providing:

  • Infection control policies and procedures.
  • Adequate staffing to clean facilities. 
  • Proper and thorough cleaning of facilities.
  • An immediate medical assessment for clients, patients and students with draining, swollen or painful cuts and sores.
  • Accurate information sharing with workers on the medical risks associated with clients, patients and students.
  • Education sessions for workers on infectious hazards that identify modes of transmission, symptoms of exposure, health effects and identification of high risk groups.
  • Isolation for those with infections.
  • Labelling of all material that comes in contact with an infected person to keep cleaning, laundry and care staff informed.
  • Notification to public health authorities of CA-MRSA infections and outbreaks. 
  • Adequate personal protective equipment.   

Please see http://www.cupe.ca/updir/superbugs.pdf for more information.

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