Chances are greater than ever that someone you know is battling methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Once contained within hospital walls, the threat of MRSA now extends well into the general community. How can you be sure your employees are protected from exposure to this life-threatening condition?

How serious is the threat?
MRSA is probably the best known member of a group of multiple-drug resistant organisms (MDROs) on the rise in the U.S. Authors of a Journal of the American Medical Associatioarticle estimate that 94,360 invasive MRSA infections occurred in the U.S. in 2005. These infections, the doctors report, were associated with death in 18,650 cases.

Today MRSA is taking a bigger toll than AIDS, and the threat is growing. One Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis reports that in 1974, two percent of staph infections involved antimicrobial-resistant organisms; in 1995, 22 percent; and in 2004, 63 percent.

MRSA is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with uncovered infections as well as by contact with contaminated clothes, towels, etc. The ease of transmission and the alarming rise in the number of reported cases provide an urgent wake-up call about the use of personal protection equipment and, most specifically, disposable gloves. Your first line of defense
Research has demonstrated the importance and effectiveness of exam gloves in allowing healthcare workers to provide care for infected patients while protecting their own health.

The use of gloves inhibits the spread of dangerous pathogens within healthcare settings, thus enhancing everyone’s safety. OSHA dictates that gloves should be worn whenever users anticipate coming in contact with mucous membranes, blood or other potentially infectious materials and when handling or touching contaminated items or surfaces. Needless to say, wearing the proper gloves is the first line of defense in controlling the spread of MRSA.Is your glove adequate?
The CDC estimates that about two million people in hospitals or primary care facilities are affected by infections due to poor barrier protection, resulting in about 80,000 deaths annually. Most primary care workers understand the importance of glove use, but determining the right type of glove to use is a big challenge.

The protective abilities of a glove depend on the material from which it is made. This makes it essential for workers to be able to recognize the different glove types, lengths, and thicknesses available so they can select the appropriate glove for the task and level of risk.

For example, studies have repeatedly shown that vinyl gloves tend to leak during use more often than latex gloves. Other glove materials, such as nitrile and polychloroprene, show better performance than vinyl but are more costly. Generally, the most important function of exam gloves is to provide effective barrier protection for both the user and the patient.

The three options are:
  • Latex-type gloves. These are recommended for high-risk situations involving potential pathogen exposure. They have been shown to offer the most elasticity, strength and thickness, according to tests conducted by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). However, allergic reactions make it impossible for some workers to wear some latex glove models.
  • Nitrile gloves. These are an excellent alternative to latex because they offer comparable barrier properties and protection in high-risk settings. They are a comfortable option because of their softness and flexibility, although they tend to be stiffer than latex. Nitrile is also very strong and resistant to solvents, and causes less irritation.
  • Vinyl gloves. These are appropriate for most low-risk, short-duration tasks. In addition, the new third-generation synthetic vinyl gloves offer enhanced durability and protection. They are naturally soft and comfortable, but provide a looser fit than nitrile or latex.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates exam grade gloves and has specific requirements about how they are manufactured and used. The FDA’s standards generally relate to length, width, elasticity, and freedom of pinholes. Based on their guidelines, exam gloves should have consistent sizing, fit comfortably and be watertight.A worksite concern
Although most MRSA cases have been associated with hospital settings, more and more occur outside the medical environment and are community-associated (MRSA-CA). Because MRSA patients are often able to continue working, MRSA prevention has become a worksite concern, not just for heath and dental workers, but for everyone from law enforcement officials to factory workers who come in close contact with one another.

Workers in non-healthcare environments need to limit their risk by wearing disposable gloves whenever there is potential for exposure to contaminants or disease. For example, more and more law enforcement officers are wearing disposable black nitrile gloves anytime they have physical contact with an arrestee.

Disposable glove manufacturers have stepped up to meet the challenge of providing a wider selection of disposable gloves to suit ever-changing needs. Even the matter of aesthetics is being addressed with sleek black glove models to suit law enforcement and military barrier protection needs, and appealing pink glove models to promote disposable glove wearing by women at risk.

Disposable glove wearing has become a way of life for many professionals. Manufacturers are committed to making that way of life more effective, comfortable and attractive.