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MRSA is carried on human skin and can be transferred to others through towels, gloves or other shared items. But it's a bit of a medical mystery how MRSA arrived on the 1,200-resident island in Penobscot Bay.
Some islanders believe it started with workers on one of the wharves. Some wonder whether the staph is in the water. Others wonder whether it somehow originated with the herring bait used by lobstermen.
All of those scenarios -- and the chance of pinning down the culprit -- seem unlikely. MRSA is not carried by seafood, so that rules out herring bait and the lobsters themselves, Sears said. And while MRSA has been documented in sea water and on beaches, it doesn't survive in those environments in concentrations necessary to cause human infection, he said.
To cut down on MRSA infections, people dealing with the infections on Vinalhaven are following guidelines recommended by the CDC: frequent hand-washing, use of disinfectants, washing clothes in hot water and setting the dryer on hot.
Morton said he always had good hygiene. But these days he takes multiple showers daily, washes his hands frequently and even changes clothes several times a day. He keeps disinfectant wipes close at hand.
"Some people will call it a little bit of a phobia, but it's to the point where I'm careful about everything I touch," Morton said. "I'm very paranoid about keeping things clean."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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