Silver Chips Online

Staph infection confirmed in Montgomery County

Virginia student died Monday after being diagnosed with infection; Blair takes precautions

By Pia Nargundkar, Online Editor-in-Chief and Charles Kong, Online Op/Ed Editor
October 17, 2007
Eleven cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant strain of a bacterial infection, have been confirmed in schools throughout Montgomery County, according to Stephanie Evers, Nurse Manager of School Health Services. No cases have been documented at Blair, but precautions are being taken, Blair nurse Debra Bitonti said.

Staphylococcus aureoli, or "staph," are common bacteria and one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of these skin infections are minor, such as pimples and boils, but can sometimes become red, swollen and painful or emit pus, the CDC reports.

Although there have been no documented cases of MRSA at Blair this year, senior John Winters came down with an infection last week after getting an open cut on his thumb. He doesn't know what caused it, but his doctors believed it was staph. "It started over the weekend after I received a cut on my hand, but I'm not exactly sure," Winters said. "My thumb was really swollen and I couldn't really bend it. I went to the doctor and got some antibiotics, so it's all better now."

In Virginia, Bedford County Public Schools closed down today after the death of a 17 year-old student was attributed to a staph infection, Dr. Katherine V. Nichols, Director of the Central Virginia Health District, said. "The school system is ordering a massive cleaning of the schools on their own accord, and not based on the advice of the Health Department," she said. "The Health Department advises just routine cleaning."

Blair is also taking precautions. Bitonti believes the infection can be contained if safety measures are taken. "I think if people followed the right precautions, it won't be a threat," she said.

Blair Athletic Director Dale Miller received news last week of MRSA infections in Anne Arundel County. "We immediately started to take steps to prevent it from circulating here at Blair," he said.

Miller stated that infections like MRSA are centered more on athletes. "[The athletic facility] is where the open wounds, cuts and abrasions occur. It's where changing of clothes takes place."

Nichols agrees, saying that the incidents of staph infections are higher among wrestling teams because of the skin-to-skin contact.

Miller and his department have begun taking preventive measures against the infection. "We are cleaning the wrestling mats before and after matches," he said. "We're disinfecting the locker room, washing the uniforms and cleaning the equipment."

Miller, Bitonti and Evers recommend that students practice healthier hygiene both at home and at school. "It is important for people to use good hand washing techniques, which includes the use of soap and water," Bitonti said. "Showering after games is a big thing too."

Students are discouraged to share items such as towels, razors and combs, said Evers. She also added that wounds should be examined and covered up immediately. "If there is a wound identified the school nurse should make sure that it is covered, so the risk of transmission is very low," she said. "We are encouraging families to take their children to the doctors to have a wound looked at and cultured."

Bitonti agrees and advises students to pay more attention to their skin. "When people see something that looks like a lesion, they should have it checked out," she said.

Personal hygiene is the key, however. "It sounds so simple just to say 'wash your hands,' but it's such good advice it can prevent so many diseases," Nichols said.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/7834