FRIDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Lack of knowledge and fear are common among parents of children with the drug-resistant staph bacteria called MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), says a new study.

Health care staff need to do a better job of educating parents while addressing their concerns and easing their fears, said the researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children Center in Baltimore.

The study authors conducted interviews with 100 parents and other caregivers of children hospitalized with new or established MRSA. Some of the children were symptom-free carriers who were hospitalized for other reasons, while others had active MRSA infections.

The researchers found that 18 of the parents/caregivers had never heard of MRSA.

Twenty-nine of the parents/caregivers said they didn't know their child had MRSA. Nine of those cases involved children with newly diagnosed MRSA, which means that 20 of the children had been diagnosed with MRSA during past hospitalizations, yet their parents/caregivers said they didn't know about it. They said they were frustrated and confused about this delayed awareness.

Of the 71 parents/caregivers who knew of their child's MRSA diagnosis, 63 (89 percent) had concerns; 55 (77 percent) worried about subsequent MRSA infections; 36 (50 percent) worried about their child spreading MRSA to others; and 11 (16 percent) believed their child's MRSA diagnosis would cause them to be shunned by friends and classmates.

Children with MRSA don't pose a serious health risk to people outside of the hospital. Restricting their play time with other children isn't necessary and doing so could cause psychological damage, the researchers noted.

"What these results really tell us is not how little parents know about drug-resistant infections, but how much more we, the health care providers, should be doing to help them understand it," senior investigator Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, said in a Hopkins news release.

The study findings were released online Oct. 21 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about MRSA.