List grows for reported MRSA cases

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 24, 2007

PENDLETON – Three more Willis Hare Elementary School students have been reported as having MRSA, according to Northampton County School officials.

In a Tuesday interview, Director of Community/School Relations and Student Services Susie Johnson confirmed the three additional cases to the one case confirmed on Friday.

According to the Mayo Clinic web site, MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a bacteria that can enter the body through a wound.

Last Thursday, a letter and phone call was sent out to parents informing them a fellow student had been diagnosed with MRSA. That student is being voluntarily kept home by the parent.

“On Friday, another parent called in and reported both of her children (who attend Willis Hare) had MRSA, but she had not told anyone,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the fourth case was reported on Monday.

She added each of the students is in different grades and classrooms. Johnson said she believes the latest student to be diagnosed plays with the two siblings with the infection.

The first student reported as having the infection is said to have not contracted it from the school setting.

Despite the additional cases, Johnson said the school will not be shut down.

“We’re following every guideline set by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), North Carolina Public Health Department,” she said. “Shutting down the school is not required.”

Once again, extra custodians have been sent to the school as well as disinfectants. Hand sanitizers and hand wipes are also being provided to students.

Johnson said since MRSA is common among athletes, physical education teachers, athletic directors and coaches have been informed of guidelines as well.

Northampton County Health Director Sue Gay also confirmed the latest cases.

“This is not considered an outbreak,” she said. “No physicians have reported any other cases.”

According to the Bertie County Health Department and Bertie County Public Schools, no cases of MRSA have been reported.

Hertford County Health Department officials said there are no confirmed cases in their county.

The Mayo Clinic describes the infection typically beginning with small red bumps that resemble spider bites or pimples. These can quickly turn into deep, painful abscesses that require surgical draining.

While the bacteria are not airborne, it can colonize on skin and in the nostrils without causing any ill effects.

MRSA can be passed on to another person through skin to skin contact and skin to surface contact. It is only when it enters the body that it can cause a staph infection that can be antibiotic resistant. If left untreated can settle in the organs, bones, joints and bloodstream.

North Carolina Public Health recommends the following to prevent MRSA skin infections for the public at large and in schools:

* Keep your hands clean by washing them with soap and water and use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

* Wash any cut or break in the skin with soap and water and apply a clean bandage to it daily.

* Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.

* Avoid sharing personal items like cups, drinks, writing utensils, towels, razors etc.

* If you assist with a bandage use plastic gloves, place the used bandage in the trash and immediately wash your hands and arms up to your elbows with soap and water.

Individuals with the symptoms of MRSA should see their doctor or a qualified healthcare provider and do all of the following:

* Keep draining wounds clean and covered. Change the bandages at least two times a day and when soiled. Place used bandages in trash can immediately.

* Wash your hands and forearms before and after caring for the wound and frequently through out the day. Use soap and warm water for 15 seconds and dry your hands on a clean towel or paper towel.

* Take all prescribed antibiotics.

* Report new skin sores or boils to your doctor immediately.