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Five Berkeley Co. students infected with MRSA

October 18, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - There have been five confirmed cases of Berkeley County Schools students suffering from the MRSA staph infection, but the county's health officer is not recommending that any of the county's schools be closed.

Although health officials say it appears the dangerous staph infection is probably killing more Americans every year than AIDS and was blamed for the death Monday of a 17-year-old Virginia high school senior, Berkeley County Schools officials can probably keep the infection in check by taking precautions at schools, said Dr. Diana Gaviria.

It was not necessary to remove the five students from their schools for treatment, Gaviria said.

The students are responding to treatment and the virus should not be a major threat as long as the students are treated properly, Gaviria said.

The five students are from across the county and the situation is not an outbreak, Gaviria said.

MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, spreads through skin-to-skin contact or by sharing something used by an infected person, health officials said.

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When someone is infected, symptoms include a boil or an abscess that can look like a spider bite, Gaviria said.

If not treated, MRSA can result in a blood infection, Gaviria said.

MRSA used to be common in hospitals and other health-care centers, but over the last five to 10 years, it has surfaced in other parts of the community, Gaviria said.

Gaviria said one possible reason for the spread of the infection is the over-reliance on antibiotics. That has caused antibiotics to be less effective against MRSA, Gaviria said.

MRSA does not respond to penicillin, which is "potentially worrisome," but can be controlled with other drugs, according to Gaviria and Associated Press reports.

Gaviria said it is rare for young people to die from MRSA and that most deaths from the infection occur in people who are in bad health, Gaviria said.

After a Bedford, Va., high school student died from MRSA, his school was closed for disinfection and schools in Tennessee and Connecticut have been closed after students showed signs of infection, the AP reported.

Berkeley County Schools issued a news release Wednesday saying the school system and the Berkeley County Health Department have been working collaboratively on the MRSA issue.

The health department is investigating any reports of the virus and is keeping school officials aware of cases in the community, according to the release distributed by Berkeley County Schools Director of Communications Jaimee Borger.

Borger said the virus is in the community all the time and some strains are worse than others.

"What (Gaviria) is telling us is there is no cause for alarm," said Borger. "We're looking at it from a precautionary stage." School officials began taking precautions at the start of the school year, such as disinfecting wresting mats after competition or disinfecting computer keyboards after use, Borger said.

Students are encouraged to take precautions such as washing their hands frequently or keeping cuts or sores covered, Borger said.

School officials are expected to send a letter home with students today that details what types of precautions students and their parents can take to control the virus, Borger said.

Gail Woods, spokeswoman for Jefferson County Schools, said Wednesday she did not know of any cases in Jefferson County or any illnesses similar to someone infected with MRSA.

"I'm sure if we had cases, the county nurse would have been in touch with us, which she hasn't been," Woods said.




What is MRSA?



MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, spreads through skin-to-skin contact or by sharing something used by an infected person, health officials said.

When someone is infected, symptoms include a boil or an abscess that can look like a spider bite, Gaviria said.

If not treated, MRSA can result in a blood infection, Gaviria said.

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