Un­der­stand­ing staph

Drug re­sis­tant MRSA strain found in state

The Covington News - - LOCAL NEWS -

By Me­gan Scott The As­so­ci­ated Press

With re­ports of an an­tibi­oti­cre­sis­tant staph in­fec­tion on the rise, many a par­ent is send­ing a child off to school with care­ful in­struc­tions th­ese days. While there is no need to panic — the in­fec­tion is rarely seen in schools even though over­all in­ci­dents are in­creas­ing — fam­i­lies can eas­ily take some ba­sic pre­cau­tions that make good health sense. What is Staph

Staph bac­te­ria are com­monly be­hind mi­nor skin in­fec­tions that show up as pim­ples or boils. Those in­fec­tions can usu­ally be treated with med­i­ca­tion.

Me­thi­cillin-re­sis­tant Sta­phy­lo­coc­cus au­reus, called MRSA or “the su­per­bug,” does not al­ways re­spond to med­i­ca­tion, al­though it can also be treat­able. It is most fre­quently trans­mit­ted by skin-to-skin con­tact, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

You should call a doc­tor if a sore is en­larg­ing and has in­creas­ing drainage, says Dr. Jef­frey A. Jahre, chair­man of the de­part­ment of medicine at St. Luke’s Hospi­tal in Beth­le­hem, Pa. Also call a doc­tor if the sore is as­so­ci­ated with symp­toms such as fever, chills or rash. Who is at risk?

Peo­ple with an open wound who come in con­tact with the staph bac­te­ria are at high­est risk to con­tract the in­fec­tion, Jahre says.

Peo­ple who play con­tact sports such as wrestling and foot­ball and peo­ple who live in close quar­ters, such as pris­ons, bar­racks and col­lege dorms, need to ex­er­cise spe­cial care, says Dr. Richard P. Wen­zel, pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety for In­fec­tious Dis­eases.

“An­other risk fac­tor is the pop­u­lar use of this cos­metic body shav­ing where peo­ple cut all the hair off them,” he says, “and things such as shar­ing com­mon whirlpools, bar soap and tow­els.”

But it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that most staph in­fec­tions are con­tracted in hospi­tal set­tings by peo­ple who have ex­ist­ing health­care prob­lems.

Many healthy peo­ple who are in­fected heal on their own or with treat­ment, says the Health De­part­ment in New York City, where a 12-year-old boy died last month.

For ex­am­ple, the health depart- ment es­ti­mates there were 600 lab­o­ra­tory-con­firmed cases of the MRSA in­fec­tion among New York City 5- to 18-year-olds last year. Preschool­ers

No need to go into de­tails about staph in­fec­tions, says Dr. Hana Solomon, a pe­di­a­tri­cian at Solomon Fam­ily Med­i­cal Clinic in Columbia, Mo. Rather, con­tinue to em­pha­size the im­por­tance of hand wash­ing and good hy­giene.

Wen­zel, also chair of the de­part­ment of in­ter­nal medicine at Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth, rec­om­mends flu vac­cines for the en­tire fam­ily, in­clud­ing pre-school­ers, be­cause con­tract­ing flu means bac­te­ria can en­ter the body more eas­ily. El­e­men­tary

Con­sid­er­ing the spate of re­ports of staph in­fec­tions in el­e­men­tary school stu­dents, it can be scary for chil­dren in this age group.

Par­ents need to em­pha­size that the risk of con­tract­ing an­tibi­oti­cre­sis­tant staph is slim, says Solomon, but also use this as an op­por­tu­nity to re­in­force good hy­giene prac­tices, such as not shar­ing drink­ing glasses, tis­sues and combs and of course, the im­por­tance of hand wash­ing.

She warns against go­ing over­board. “You don’t want them to be com­pul­sive. You want them to un­der­stand and be com­pli­ant.” Wen­zel adds that par­ents should tell chil­dren to re­port any wounds to the skin im­me­di­ately, so they can be cleaned and cov­ered. High school

Em­pha­size the im­por­tance of fol­low­ing ba­sic hy­giene, es­pe­cially for those liv­ing in the dorm. Re­mind them not to share clothes, linens, ra­zors, bar soap. Tell them to clean and cover open wounds and watch them closely to make sure they are heal­ing.

If the stu­dent plays a sport, make sure there are poli­cies to dis­in­fect the equip­ment (such as gym­nas­tic mats), says Jahre. And in the locker rooms, there should be poli­cies in place that the stu­dents do not share per­sonal items. School of­fi­cials

Find out about the no­ti­fi­ca­tion pol­icy of in­fec­tious dis­eases in the school, says Solomon. “Schools need to no­tify all the par­tic­i­pants of the com­mu­nity, whether a school, day care or nurs­ing home, what dis­eases are go­ing around,” she says.

For younger stu­dents, ask school of­fi­cials about hy­giene: Does the day care/preschool em­pha­size hand wash­ing? For older stu­dents, is gym equip­ment dis­in­fected?

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