NIOSH Safety and Health Topics Web Page Focuses on Staph Infections

ON Oct. 24, NIOSH announced the availability of a Web page on steps that employers and employees can take concerning the risk of staph infections in the workplace.

The information is provided for general workplaces, not healthcare facilities. Healthcare workers should refer to information found at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/ar_mrsa.html.

Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as "staph," is a type of bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Sometimes, staph can cause an infection. Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States. Most of these skin infections are minor (such as pustules and boils) and can be treated without antibiotics. However, staph bacteria also can cause serious infections, such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) refers to types of staph that are resistant to a type of antibiotic methicillin. MRSA is often resistant to other antibiotics, as well. While 25 percent to 30 percent of the population is colonized with staph (meaning that bacteria are present, but not causing an infection with staph), approximately 1 percent is colonized with MRSA.

Staph infections, including MRSA, occur most frequently among people in hospitals and healthcare facilities who have weakened immune systems. These healthcare-associated staph infections include surgical wound infections, urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

The NIOSH page discusses issues such as:

What an employee can do to prevent the spread of MRSA at work and at home.

What employees should do if their uniforms, clothing, personal protective equipment or workstations become contaminated with MRSA.

What employers can do to prevent the spread of staph or MRSA at the workplace.

The Safety and Health Topics Page can be accessed at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/mrsa.

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