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Is another potential virus just lurking around?

Today, the news of a dangerous and potentially deadly staph virus found in sand and water in five public beaches along the coast of Washington in the United States seems to tell us that there is yet another danger just around the corner.

With Influenza A (H1N1) still heavily out of control despite the seemingly quite news about it, another possible pandemic might erupt once again. What is this potential deadly bacteria and how dangerous is it?

The germ is MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is said to be a hard-to-treat bug which are rarely seen outside hospitals, recently however there is a trend of its increasing presence in ordinary community settings such as schools, locker rooms and gyms.

If left unattendted MRSA may cause nasty skin infections as well as pneumonia and other life-threatening problems. It spreads mostly through human contact. Little is known about environmental sources that also may harbor the germ.

"We don't know the risk" for any individual going to a beach, she said. "But the fact that we found these organisms suggests that the level is much higher than we had thought," Marilyn Roberts, a microbiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle said.

The new study is a result of a test conducted on 10 beaches in Washington along the West Coast and in Puget Sound from February to September 2008. Staph bacteria were found at nine of them, including five with MRSA. The strains resembled the highly resistant ones usually seen in hospitals, rather than the milder strains acquired in community settings, Roberts said.

No staph was found in samples from two beaches in southern California. People should not avoid beaches or be afraid to enjoy them, scientists say.

"It's probably prudent to shower when you come out" to lower the risk of bacteria staying on the skin, said Dr. Lance Peterson, a microbiologist at NorthShore University Health System in Evanston, Ill.

"Make sure you get all the sand off," and cover any open cuts or scrapes before playing in the sand, Roberts added. Digging in the sand or being buried in it seems to raise the risk of infection, she said.

Reference: Associated Press and Yahoo News

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