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Let's be proactive about staph
before the scary stuff shows up

10/18/07

There have been stories circulating recently on the national news of school closings and even deaths of students due to a drug-resistant staph “superbug”.

According to an Associated Press story circulating in the news early this week, “...more than 90,000 Americans get potentially deadly infections each year” from the staph, called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureaus, or MRSA.

I’ll say that just once, because it hurts my fingers to type it and my head to read it.
We’ll call it MRSA for now.

And I think we’ll be hearing more and more about it in the future. According to one expert, deaths in America from MRSA may surpass deaths caused by AIDS.

The government report indicatd just how far one form of the staph germ has spread “beyond its traditional hospital setting.”

Overall incidence rate is about 32 invasive infections per 100,000 people. That is “an astounding figure” according to a recent editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which published the study.

Most drug-resistant staph cases are mild skin infectons. But this study focused on the invasive kind – those that enter the bloodstream or destroy flesh and can turn deadly.

Only one-quarter of the invasive kind involved patients in hospitals, though over half involved those in the health system, including those who recently had surgery, or were on kidney dialysis, for example.

Open wounds and exposure to medical equipment are major ways the bug spreads.

In recent years, though, the staph has spread through prisons, gyms and locker rooms.

One high school senior in Virginia recently died with the staph being blamed as the culprit. He was originally mis-diagnosed after seeing a doctor for pains in his side. A few days later, he was admitted to the hospital where doctors found the germ had spread to his kidneys, liver, lungs and muscles around his heart.

Schools in Virginia and Maryland were closed recently while workers disinfected locker rooms, gyms, workout equipment, etc.

Staph infections are not new to Iowa Park, or any other school in Texas. Coaches here are proactive in telling their players how to keep their clothes and equipment clean. Despite the heads up, a handful of athletes will inevitably come down with an infection.

So far, though, none of the MRSA.

I’m not one to trigger the tornado alarms for just any potential threat to this community, and especially to the youth of this community.

The schools in the Northeast closed their doors during midweek while workers sprayed problem areas with hospital disinfectant and performed other cleaning duties.

Perhaps our school trustees should look into the cost of big drums of the disinfectant, and budgeting overtime for workers to come in periodically and clean the field houses, and the gyms on all the campuses ... and perhaps the school administration can have quick, informative sessions in the auditorium, and give the students a thumbnail view of how to avoid coming down with a staph infection. I’ll give you a few hints here:

• Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand cleaner (do it often);
• Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed;
• Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages;
• Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
Up to this point, MRSA was not even on the radar at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

As quick as the germ is spreading, my bet is the CDC will get on board very soon.
Just for the sake of protecting our kids, we should get on board even sooner.



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