The MRSA hospital superbug may be being carried by more than 66,000 NHS staff, according to a warning contained in a ministerial statement.
Health minister Ann Keen said that the number of staff colonised with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was between 3% and 5%.
Given a total NHS workforce of 1,330,544, that means that government estimates put the number carrying the bacteria at up to 66,527.
The Office for National Statistics reports that MRSA contributed to the deaths of 1,593 people in 2007.
Copyright Press Association 2009