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School system deals with staph infections

In light of a national outbreak of a staph infection that is resistant to commonly used antibiotics, McDuffie County Schools sent home a packet to parents last Thursday reporting one confirmed case and explaining the infection. According to Superintendent Mark Petersen, another confirmation this week brought the total of local cases to two, both in elementary schools.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can lead to life-threatening bone or blood infections if left untreated, and is common in hospitals. Community-associated MRSA is when the infection occurs outside hospitals.

"Although the Center for Disease Control approves infected individuals to be in the general public as long as lesions are covered, a local doctor has recommended the student be excluded from school until lesions are no longer... a threat to classmates," Dr. Petersen said in the letter.

Dr. Petersen said the infected students were removed from school, desks and other items were immediately effectively sanitized and athletic trainers sanitized athletic equipment as an added precaution. After the second case was confirmed, Dr. Petersen said antibacterial foggers are being purchased to sanitize buses.

The superintendent said the lesion of the first student who was diagnosed last week has healed enough for the student to return to the classroom. Continued sanitizing efforts remain in effect at each school.

The germ can be picked up from frequently touched surfaces such as telephones or door knobs. Because the staph germ easily enters a cut or scrape, MRSA sores often begin as minor skin irritations that quickly develop into abscesses with surrounding inflammation. According to a fact sheet from the Division of Public Health, good personal hygiene and frequent hand-washing are a must to prevent MRSA infections.

Within the 13 counties of the East Central Health District the biggest outbreak of MRSA in schools is in neighboring Columbia County with 11 cases, according to Morris News Service reports. In Richmond County, there have been three cases.

Larry Walker, public relations information coordinator for the ECHD in Augusta, said Tuesday that people should remain calm about the increasing number of cases within area school systems.

"This is not something that the public needs to panic about," Mr. Walker said. "We offer a website that explains the basics of this type of infection."

For more information, visit the website at

Web posted on Thursday, November 08, 2007

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