Health Department Gives Advice to Schools on Staph Infection (MRSA)
October 23, 2007
Responding to questions from a number of East Bay schools, a health department is sending information to school officials about how to handle concerns related to Staphylococcus aureus - or staph - and MRSA, a antibiotic resistant staph infection.
Contra Costa Health Services, working with the Contra Costa County Office of Education, sent information to local schools explaining that staph infections are spread primarily by direct (skin-to-skin) human contact or with direct contact to wound drainage of someone who is carrying or infected with the bacteria. Anyone with a break in his or her skin is at risk if they come in contact. Less frequently, it can be spread through indirect contact with contaminated surfaces or items.
"MRSA is not spread through the air and there are simple things that students and others can do to prevent its spread," said Francie Wise, Communicable Disease Program Chief for the County.
Wise pointed out that while health providers and schools are not required to report MRSA cases, the health department knows that there are a number of cases every year. "We are not aware of an unusually high number of cases in Contra Costa right now."
She says that anyone who has symptoms - a lesion (sore) that does not begin to heal within 48 hours, but enlarges and becomes red, hot and/or swollen (a boil or carbuncle) - may be infected with MRSA or some other organism. She points out that all skin conditions are not MRSA, that people with symptoms should contact their health providers and that treatment is not required if there are no symptoms.
"We know that school officials and parents are wondering what actions schools take and what precautions students and parents can take," Wise says.
According to Wise, the letter to school officials says that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that in most cases it is not necessary to close schools because of a MRSA infection. The letter provides links from Health Services website - cchealth.org - to actions schools can take, including cleaning and disinfecting and advice to teachers.
"It's important for people to remember that staph and MRSA have been and remain a common cause of skin infections. Good hand washing and other prevention is very helpful," Wise stressed.
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