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A reported outbreak of MRSA at the D.C. Fire and EMS Academy underscores the serious threat MRSA poses to firefighters. The recent hype about methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA following the death of a 17-year old Virgina high school student should serve as a warning to the fire service. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) highlights certain groups of people known to be a high risk for Community Acquired MRSA including athletes, military recruits, children, Pacific Islanders, Alaskan Natives, Native Americans, men who have sex with men, and prisoners. Firefighters are not on their list - but wait one moment before you breathe a sigh of relief. Behaviors spread MRSA, not membership in a group! Fire Engineering author Derek Williams, in his December 2006 article, "Drug Resistant Infections: Danger in the Station" described a cluster of MRSA skin infections in the Mesa (AZ) Fire Department. He cited the CDC list of behaviors linked to spread of MRSA: close skin-to-skin contact, openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions, contaminated items and surfaces, crowded living conditions, and poor hygiene. Hmmm. Ever share turnout gear, helmets, towels, linens, SCBA masks, dishes, or have a firefighter with poor hygiene in your quarters? Yup, thought so. Let's get real - the danger of MRSA is far more extreme to firefighters than to the public.

It's time to dust off your old issues of Fire Engineering or maybe surf on over to the CDC website and brush up on how to lower the risk of a MRSA outbreak in your station. Check out pronto before it finds you.

Mike :)

Mike McEvoy, PhD, RN, CCRN, REMT-P
Fire Engineering EMS Technical Editor
[email protected]

posted by Mike McEvoy
10/20/2007 09:14:00 AM

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Blogger w's world said...

Good points, Mike. We work in a dirty “environment,” and at times, our infection control practices are not quite up to snuff!

Though MRSA poses an issue for firefighters, it's especially an issue for our immunosuppressed EMS patients.In hospitals “Nasocomial” infections (healthcare-to-patient) are epidemic and have been under intense scrutiny by regulatory agencies, as well as Medicare! In the near future, we’ll enjoy this same scrutiny and our risk managers will have the luxury of putting out these fires!

W’s World

Wed Oct 24, 11:31:00 PM EDT  

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