MIAMI, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Swimmers using public ocean beaches increase their risk for exposure to staph bacteria and potential infections, U.S. researchers said.
Staph infections are caused by the bacteria staphylococcus aureus, which many healthy people carry on their skin and in their noses without getting sick, but when skin is punctured or broken, staph bacteria can enter the wound and cause infections.
"Our study found that if you swim in subtropical marine waters, you have a significant chance -- approximately 37 percent - of being exposed to staph -- either yours or possibly that from someone else in the water near you," Dr. Lisa Plano of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine said in a statement.
"This exposure might lead to staph infection since people colonized with the bacteria carry it into the water with them. Those with open wounds or who are immune compromised are at greatest risk of infection."
However, the results show the potentially virulent variety of antibiotic resistant staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, makes up less than 3 percent of staph from the beach waters sampled during the study, Plano said.
People shouldn't avoid beaches, but the study team, which included researchers from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, recommends taking precautions to reduce the risk of infection by showering thoroughly before entering the water and after getting out.