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    GENEVA, April 15 -- One in every 20 healthcare workers carries methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), researchers here said.

    But the vast majority is without symptoms and only 5.1% have full-blown clinical infections, according to Stephan Harbarth, M.D., of the University Hospitals of Geneva, and Werner Albrich, M.D., of University Hospital Bern.

    One implication is that screening efforts aimed at symptomatic infections are likely to miss a large proportion of colonized healthcare workers who might transmit the bacteria, they wrote in a literature review in the May issue of Lancet Infectious Diseases.

    Instead, they said, "aggressive screening and eradication policies" should be used in an outbreak and in situations where MRSA has not reached highly endemic levels.

    It's also important to avoid "feelings of guilt or stigmatization" among those found to be colonized, they said. "In analogy to needle-stick injuries, MRSA carriage or infection in a healthcare worker should be considered an occupational hazard," they said.