Staph Infection Reported in School
Times have changed.
A strain of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, commonly referred to as "staph", has developed a resistance to common antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin. This type of bacteria, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), made headlines across the country last week when it caused the death of a Virginia teen. The incident, along with some news outlets labeling the bacteria as a "superbug", has created heightened awareness, and even erroneous fear, about the bacteria.
The same type of bacteria was found in a Jefferson City High School student last week. The student, a cross country athlete, was removed from practice, and the school sent home a letter to parents informing them. The student is currently attending classes, and district officials classified the student's condition as "okay".
The infection was the second reported staph infection of the year for JCHS, and the first of the MRSA strain.
David Luther, the director of school and community relations, said that the district is doing its best to keep its students safe.
"We make sure that the locker rooms are cleaned on a regular basis," Luther said. "We do everything we can to keep our facilities clean and disinfected."
The district has also contacted the Cole County Health Department to guarantee safety.
"The school approached us after the second case," health director Jane Hubbs said. "They wanted to ensure that they are taking every precaution that they can to decrease the risk of transmission to students and student athletes."
Hubbs approved of what the high school was currently doing, saying that all procedures were concurrent with those recommended by the government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She only foresaw the district implementing one major change.
"They are going to beef up how often they're going to clean," she said. "[Cleaning] the sports equipment every day is one of the CDC recommendations. They are now looking at ways they can logistically implement these policies and proceed."
Staph infections, including MRSA infections, can be transferred into an open wound via direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with a shared item or surface that has come in contact with another infection. The contact inherent in sport increases the chances of the infection spreading.
It is not usually necessary to close a school for a single infection; on the contrary, according to the CDC, "unless directed by a physician, students with MRSA infections should not be excluded from attending school."
Those infected can easily prevent the spreading of the bacteria by covering the infection with a clean dry bandage.
"Everyone needs to be aware that staph is out there, and if you have an open place on your body, then you are at risk for acquiring that," Hubbs warned. "But basically if people use good hygiene, hand washing, making sure that their wounds are covered, not touching someone else's lesion or their own lesion, then those can all reduce risk of transmission."
As for antibiotic resistance, Hubbs said that the public need not worry.
"They can pursue different drugs," she explained. "It is still something that is treatable."