A survey on public knowledge and perceptions of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

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ObjectivesThe aim of the study was to establish knowledge and understanding of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) among patients, visitors and members of the general public accessing health services and to identify public education needs in relation to MRSA.Participants and methodsSurvey participants were recruited through 15 general practice surgeries across Tayside and through a young people’s health and information project in Dundee city centre and at a health information facility at Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee.ResultsThere were 1000 responses. The majority (86%) had heard of MRSA, 59% knew that it is a bacterium and 47% were aware that a healthy person can have MRSA without feeling ill. Those who knew someone who had had MRSA (32%) showed greater knowledge but greater worry about getting MRSA if admitted to hospital. Knowledge of possible treatments was variable, with 7% of respondents thinking of MRSA as untreatable. Across all groups, most estimates of MRSA prevalence were much higher than actual prevalence.ConclusionsPublic awareness of MRSA and its treatment was higher than expected, mainly gained through the media, but with considerable gaps in knowledge. Knowing someone with MRSA makes the individual more likely to be knowledgeable about MRSA in general, but more likely to think it is untreatable and almost twice as likely to be worried about contracting MRSA if admitted to hospital. The findings of this survey will inform the development of educational packages for the general public, as well as patients entering hospital and their visitors.

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