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MRSA jump tied to refugee influx

Updated måndag 21 mars 2016 kl 16.17
Published måndag 21 mars 2016 kl 14.08
"A marked increase between August and December."
(4:28 min)
Håkan Lindgren
MRSA. Credit: Håkan Lindgren

Reported cases of the MRSA superbug jumped 30 per cent last year in Sweden, with the increase partly due to the recent rise in immigration, that's according to Swedish Public Health Agency.

"We have seen an increase (of MRSA cases) over a number of years, and a marked increase between August to December 2015. Many of these cases are actually people who got this bacteria outside Sweden," Malin Grape, Head of the Unit for Antibiotics and Infection Control at the Public Health Agency of Sweden, tells Radio Sweden.

Last year, 3,882 cases of MRSA were reported in Sweden, an increase of 30 per cent on 2014, according to a report published by the agency.

MRSA, (methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), is a form bacterial infection that is resistant to numerous antibiotics including methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin and oxacillin, thereby making it challenging to treat.

Grape says that the increase in numbers can in part be explained by the higher number of refugees coming to Sweden, given that this is a group that is likely to come into contact with the healthcare service more often than the general population.

"With the higher sampling and more people coming from outside Sweden and the northern countries, ... We also have a higher number of MRSA cases," explains Grape.

If you have a wound, or if you have been treated in a hospital outside Sweden then you are checked for MRSA. According to the Infectious Disease Act, all detected MRSA cases must be reported to the agency.

Grape points out that people who have MRSA, can have infections, but that in a very large number of case people simply carry the condition.

Despite the increase, the agency believes the spread of infection in Swedish healthcare facilities and beyond is limited. Even with the increase, Sweden's rate of incidence is lower than countries outside the Nordics.

Sweden took active steps to counter MRSA some 20 years ago, says Grape.

"It is not serious, but we want to make the analysis to make sure that we're on top of things."

Grape calls for co-ordinated action to reduce the spread of MRSA.

"This is a global issue - we are not isolated. This is a global thing, and we need to work globally."

And in practical terms, Grape urges two simple ways people can beat the condition: improved hygiene and decreased use of antibiotics.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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