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District confirms case of MRSA

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By Johnathan Ryan

HEATH SPRINGS – Parents of students at Heath Springs Elementary School have been notified of a confirmed case of the antibiotic-resistant staph infection commonly called MRSA.Letters were sent home on Thursday asking parents to be watchful for signs of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, such as boils or pimple-like red spots on the skin. The staph bacteria is commonly spread when it comes in contact with breaks in the skin such as open sores.The Heath Springs Elementary student who contracted MRSA returned to school Wednesday after being successfully treated. She was not considered contagious, said Principal Sheri Watson. The student was out of school for a week. The student left school Oct. 10 after a school nurse noticed a red boil, resembling staph, on her skin.“She was sent home, just as we would, with any other infection,” Watson said.School officials learned that the student was diagnosed with MRSA when she returned Wednesday.Areas of the school that the student frequented and her bus underwent major disinfection with a special cleaner on Thursday. Watson said the cleaning was “quite extensive.” School District spokesman David Knight said parents have no reason to be alarmed.“I would say this is a pretty typical year so far (as far as the number of MRSA cases is concerned),” Knight said.By this time last year, two cases were reported in the district. There have been three so far in the district this year, he said.Knight said officials from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control told the district that notifying parents wasn’t necessary, but district officials wanted to be on the safe side.“DHEC said there really wasn’t a need, but due to the media attention being given to MRSA right now, we felt it was best to send the letter,” Knight said.Knight said the parents of the Heath Springs student didn’t have to inform school officials about their daughter’s treated MRSA.If a MRSA outbreak occurs, which is defined as two or more different cases where the individuals may have had contact with each other, state law requires the involved entity to report it to DHEC. Individual cases do not have to be reported.

MRSA deaths nationwideAn invasive form of MRSA is being blamed for the death Monday of a 17-year-old Virginia high school senior. Doctors said the germ had spread to his kidneys, liver, lungs and muscles around his heart.Invasive forms of MRSA are also blamed in the deaths of a preschooler in New Hampshire and a Massachusetts preteen within the past two weeks.Several states are reporting an increase in MRSA infections in schools in recent weeks. Many schools are shutting down school facilities, particularly locker rooms and gyms for disinfection.On Thursday, six high school football players in North Carolina’s Forsyth County School District were diagnosed MRSA. There were also reports of MRSA infections from seven students in West Virgina and two in Connecticut this week.MRSA becomes potentially fatal when it burrows deep into the body and enters the bloodstream. MRSA that goes untreated for too long or is found in people with poor immune systems can lead to bloodstream infections, possibly resulting in death.Staph lives on the skin or in the noses of about 30 percent of the population, said DHEC Region 3 Medical Director Dr. Gil Potter. But MRSA is a form of staph that is resistant to methicillin and other popular antibiotics in the penicillin class. MRSA requires special antibiotics, such as bactrim and vancomycin, reserved for specific infections.The rise of the MRSA strain over the past three decades is being partly blamed on the overuse of antibiotics to treat past cases of general staph.

MRSA in Lancaster CountyAmong the general population in Lancaster County, Springs Memorial Hospital has treated and released 27 people for MRSA in the past 30 days, said hospital spokeswoman Ashley Shannon on Thursday. She said that’s typical for a 30-day period. “That’s normal,” she said, also noting the hospital has plenty of special antibiotics on hand to treat MRSA.And while more MRSA infections are being contracted from hospital equipment and infected staff nationwide, Shannon said there have been no reported cases of MRSA among Springs Memorial Hospital staff. All 27 Springs patients with MRSA had the infection before they got to the hospital, she said. The main line of defense against MRSA is proper hand washing and good wound management.The Centers for Disease Control reported this week that up to 90,000 Americans contract invasive MRSA – which gets into the bloodstream – each year. On Tuesday, a study suggested that invasive MRSA could have killed more people than HIV-AIDS in 2005, with estimated deaths totaling 18,560. The study was based on the death rate found in a sample of 5,287 cases. About one quarter of the cases involved MRSA patients who had been hospitalized, and more than half had recently undergone surgery or were on kidney dialysis.For more information of MRSA, visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/ar_mrsa.html.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Contact Johnathan Ryanat 416-8416 orjryan@thelancasternews.com