Maryland Correctional Institution officer hospitalized with MRSA infection

April 11, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

An officer at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown was hospitalized this week with a confirmed MRSA infection, according to a prisons spokesperson.

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, is a difficult-to-treat bacterial infection that can, in rare instances, be fatal, a hospital spokesman said.

Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman Mark Vernarelli, in a memo to prison officials dated Tuesday at 5:23 p.m. (view PDF), wrote that "doctors believe the most likely source for the CO's exposure was his workplace."

After speaking with medical personnel at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Vernarelli wrote in a proposed statement for roll call dated Tuesday at 8:56 p.m. that "there is no way to know at this time specifically how or where the officer may have contracted the infection."


Copies of both memos were obtained Thursday by The-Herald Mail.

A Johns Hopkins Hospital spokesman said Thursday in an e-mail that the hospital's infection-control staff had identified the most likely source of infection as being outside of the hospital.

The patient requested his information not be given out, and a condition was not available, a hospital spokeswoman said Thursday night.

MRSA is spread through person-to-person contact or contact with contaminated objects, according to health-care officials.

The officer was listed in serious condition earlier this week, according to the documents dated Tuesday. The officer was transferred to Johns Hopkins from Washington County, according to documents.

Routine laboratory testing April 7 confirmed that a patient transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital the previous day had an MRSA infection, a hospital spokesman said in an e-mail.

Hospital officials reported the MRSA infection to the Baltimore City Health Department, which has reported it to the Washington County Health Department, Johns Hopkins spokesman David March said in the e-mail.

Prison officials distributed information about the MRSA infection to prison staff members in the Hagerstown region after learning of the case, Vernarelli said Thursday. The prison system has an MRSA infection rate of two infections per 1,000 inmates, he said.

Vernarelli previously said he was not aware of any cases of an officer contracting an MRSA infection through the prison, he said.

Community-Associated MRSA

Following is a description of MRSA taken from the CDC's Web site:

MRSA - methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus - is a type of staph that is resistant to certain antibiotics. These antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin. Staph infections, including MRSA, occur most frequently among persons in hospitals and healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes and dialysis centers) who have weakened immune systems.

MRSA infections that are acquired by people who have not been hospitalized within the past year, or had a medical procedure, such as dialysis, surgery, catheters, are known as CA-MRSA infections.

Staph or MRSA infections in the community are usually manifested as skin infections, such as pimples and boils, and occur in otherwise healthy people.

For more information about the disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online at

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