MRSA bacteria found in Wash. fire station

UW study reveals firefighters, equipment bringing bacteria into stations, living areas

By FireRescue1 Staff

EVERETT, Wash. — A University of Washington study released Thursday found responders may be at a higher risk for carrying methicillian-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) than the average person.

Researchers conducted the first-ever environmental health study on MRSA in Northwest fire stations and on personnel to determine the extent of the contamination.

After running tests, MRSA was found all over the fire station, reported King 5 News.

UW Professor Marilyn Roberts, an expert researcher on MRSA, told King 5 she had found evidence of the bacteria on most fire station surfaces, and on the responders themselves.

"Firefighters and paramedics are at the crossroads between the public and hospital environments," said Roberts in the University's press release. "Their job includes administering first-response care to patients, many of whom are more likely to be MRSA carriers or have MRSA infections than the general population. This puts them at increased risk for MRSA infections."

The research team found more than 20 percent of fire and EMS responders who volunteered to be tested carried MRSA and an additional 10 percent carried Staphylococcus aureus in their noses.

Another recent study at Rhode Island Hospital found only about one percent of the general population carries MRSA in their noses.

The fire department suspects MRSA is transmitted into personnel living spaces from paperwork and electronics used to record information from out in the field.

Following the study, the Snohomish fire district became more stringent on what could be brought inside the fire station, washing clothes and equipment more frequently — and they added more hand sanitation stations; anything to keep MRSA at bay.

"We don't want to take this home to our families," said Firefighter-Medic Kevin Fetter. "We have to do this job for 20, 30 years."

The results of the study have prompted other fire districts to look into the MRSA levels responders are bringing into fire stations.

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