A widespread infection of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been a concern for years, according to medical industry sources. MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can lead to severe infections and is associated with approximately 19,000 deaths annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So it's no surprise that a new study claims MRSA transmission may be occurring in fire stations.
The study, published in the June issue of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology's journal, followed the work of University of Washington researchers who tested potential areas within Seattle-area fire stations that were contaminated with MRSA and characterized the isolates to determine whether they were related to hospital (HA-MRSA) and/or community (CA-MRSA) strains.
"This is the first study to molecularly characterize MRSA isolates from fire station environmental surfaces; sample both fire station surfaces and personnel; and characterize non-health care environmental MRSA," lead investigator Marilyn Roberts said in a statement.
Investigators from the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle assessed nine different areas in two fire stations. These included medic trucks, fire trucks and fire engines, outer fire gear, garages, kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and gyms. After the sampling, fire personnel sat through an educational training seminar and hand sanitizers were installed. About nine months later, a second set of samples were collected at the stations. Nasal samples were obtained from 40 healthy fire personnel from 13 stations to evaluate MRSA carriage.
At the first sampling, 4.3% of the 600 surface samples were MRSA positive, with MRSA positive samples found in all nine areas sampled. The most common area for MRSA contamination was the medic trucks with 50%; the kitchens with 11.5%; and other areas, such as computer keyboards and computer desks with 7.7%.
At the second sampling, there was a small decline with 3.9%. The kitchen and outer gear both had 22% MRSA positive samples, while the medic truck had 16.6%, other areas had one or two MRSA positive samples each.
Investigators concluded that fire personnel interact with both hospital and community populations as part of their job and have the potential for exposure to MRSA from both sources. Specifically, MRSA strains commonly found in the hospital were identified in the study, demonstrating that both community- and hospital-like MRSA can contaminate fire-station surfaces.