SEATTLE -- The University of Washington is beginning phase two of a health study involving the state's firefighters hoping to see how widespread MRSA bacteria really is.
The study has already attracted international attention about the medical and health risks of being a firefighter, and could lead to listing MRSA as one more job related health threat facing the nation's firefighters.
The initial study conducted a year ago found one group of Snohomish County firefighters tested positive for MRSA in their systems at a rate 10 to 20 times that of the general public.
MRSA is the powerful staph bacteria that is immune to some disinfectants and is blamed for causing serious, potentially deadly, infections.
Now, researchers are sending kits containing swabs and other materials that firefighters will use to test their station houses for MRSA.
Most firefighters, though carriers of the bacteria, will never get sick from it or even know they have it. But because they could spread it to others inside and out of the firehouse, it is potential risk to others.
Phase two of the study is being expanded to as many as 30 fire stations across Washington to see how widespread exposures are, and where in the fire houses the bacteria is most easily spread. It can jump from firefighter to firefighter in the dormitory-style fire houses as firefighters return from treating injured or ill patients.