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Monday, 22 December 2014

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MRSA death: How Carlisle man exposed to superbug uncertain

A doctor told an inquest there was no way of knowing definitively how a paralysed pensioner was exposed to the MRSA superbug which ultimately led to his death.

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Infection: Frank Jewell died at the Cumberland Infirmary of MRSA

Related: Concern for Carlisle patient could have been raised, inquest told

Retired RAF engineer Frank Jewell, 72, died at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle in June 2010.

In the weeks before his death, he was being cared for at his Valley Drive home in Carlisle by a team of district nurses and carers. But he developed bedsores and it was probably through one of these that the MRSA bacteria entered his body, the four-day inquest heard.

Giving evidence yesterday, Cumberland Infirmary consultant microbiologist Dr Manjula Meda explained how between one and three per cent of the general population carry MRSA.

It becomes a potentially deadly infection requiring urgent treatment when it enters the bloodstream through broken skin.

Asked if it was likely that Mr Jewell contracted MRSA during one of his hospital stays in the months before he became seriously ill, Dr Meda said it was impossible to say.

Swabs taken from him in February before he was discharged from a hospital stay were negative for the bug.

She explained how the bacteria involved are most often transferred in healthcare facilities such as nursing homes or hospitals.

Healthcare workers are more likely than most people to carry the bug on their hands because of their work.

That is why there is such an emphasis on the need for them to wash their hands regularly after contact with patients. The bug could also survive on surfaces, she said.

“You can get rid of it [the bug] by using alcohol gel or washing your hands,” the doctor told the hearing.

Earlier the hearing had heard that Mr Jewell’s widow Jean had made a statement saying that some of the professionals involved in caring for her husband had at times not worn latex gloves. The nurse leading his care said she would be surprised if that were true.

In his evidence, Cumberland Infirmary consultant physician Dr Denis Burke confirmed that the documents relating to Mr Jewell’s last admission to hospital before his death on June 27, 2010, had been lost.

Mr Jewell was referred to a neurologist in 2008 because of numbness and pains in his limbs and difficulty in walking. He had surgery to relieve compression of his spinal cord, but was left paralysed – recognised as a potential risk from such surgery.

He died the day after he went in to hospital on June 26, 2010.

The hearing continues.

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