THE number of hospital patients infected with the feared superbug MRSA has fallen to its lowest level in a decade.
A report for 2013 shows there were 222 reports of potentially lethal MRSA bloodstream infection in 2013, down from 242 the previous year and dramatically lower than its peak in 2006.
Hospitals with the highest recorded numbers were Limerick Regional (23), St Vincent's (19), University Hospital Galway (16) and Beaumont (11).
Although the official figures are only a portion of the MRSA infections in hospital, they provide a reliable measure of how widespread it is.
Large hospitals, which treat the sickest patients with complex conditions, report the highest numbers of cases. Many bloodstream infections are acquired in the community but are only diagnosed on admission to hospital.
Likewise, a patient may have acquired a bloodstream infection in one hospital but it may only be diagnosed on transfer to another.
Health Minister James Reilly said that while the figures showed significant progress, health workers still had more work to do.
One of the main areas in need of address is the overuse of antibiotics.
It may not be possible to prevent the bacteria from spreading altogether, but a number of precautions can be taken to reduce the risk of infection. Washing hands regularly and cleaning surfaces using products with bleach are important measures.