Researchers have found the antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria MRSA on public beaches along the Puget Sound in Washington State, and believe that sand and water at other public beaches may be home to the bacteria.
Earlier this year, MRSA was also discovered to be living on beaches in South Florida.
Community-acquired infections in people without risk factors such as poor hygiene are a growing concern, but little is known about environmental sources of MRSA, says Marilyn Roberts, PhD, an environmental health scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Roberts and colleagues tested marine water and sand samples from beaches along the Puget Sound in Washington from February to September 2008.
Staph bacteria were found at nine of 10 beaches tested. Five of the beaches harbored strains of multidrug-resistant staph.
To the researchers’ surprise, most of the samples "looked more like hospital-acquired MRSA strains than the bacteria typically found in the community," Roberts says. Three samples, from beaches 10 miles apart, were "essentially the same," she says. –WebMD Health News
It is unclear where this hospital-acquired lookalike MRSA on the beaches is coming from, but researchers are working hard to find out.
In the meantime, protect yourself and your children from MRSA at the beach by:
· Brushing all the sand off when you get out of the water. Digging and being buried in the sand seem to raise the risk of MRSA infection.
· Thoroughly cleaning and covering any open cuts or scrapes before playing in the sand.
· Showering after exiting the water.
· Consulting a health care professional immediately if a cut or scrape seems to be infected a few days after a beach visit.