Rising Cases of Staph Infection in the US Schools
Staph infections have forced some schools in the United States to temporarily end classes. According to officials from the one county in Southern Virginia, a total of twenty-one schools were closed down to prevent the spread of a dangerous bacterial infection that led to the death of a 17- year old high school student. The student died because of a drug-resistant staph infection known as Methicillin-resistant Stapphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA. The said infection is now a public health issue being discussed beyond South Virginia’s borders.
According to Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, even schools in Bedford County were closed in order to allow officials to carry out a thorough cleaning and sanitation drive aimed at getting rid of the bacteria responsible for these infections. Pyle also added that two schools from a small rural district in Rappahannok County in the northern part of the state were closed for a day for a similar cleaning process due to MRSA concerns.
The Virginia health department reported at least three MRSA outbreaks thus far. The state education department is also encouraging school districts statewide to contact local health authorities to learn about steps to minimize the risk of further staph infections.
A research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed an estimated 19,000 deaths of Americans due to MRSA in 2005, the most recent year for which figures were available. Al least 94,000 people became seriously ill due to MRSA in 2005. About 85 percent of MRSA infections were caught from a hospital or health care facility. What has caused concern among government officials and residents is the possibility of an escalation of infections in the community.
But what exactly is a Staph Infection?
Staph infections are caused by bacteria called Staphyloccus Aureus. This type of infection causes illness on the skin but can also be the source of toxins responsible for food poisoning and toxic shock syndrome. Over 30 different Staphylocci can infect humans with the Staphyloccus Aureus being the most common since it can be found in the nose or skin of around 20% of healthy adults.
Symptoms of the infection include the presence of boils, rashes, furuncle, and abscess. In severe cases, the infection spreads to the bloodstream and causes serious infections in the internal organs including the lungs and heart.
Based on estimates released by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one percent of the total U.S. population carries the bacteria that may cause MRSA, often with minimal or no symptoms at all. The CDC warns that staph infections in schools may occur in locker rooms by sharing personal items such as towels and athletic gear. State officials have urged students and other facilitators in the school area to wash their hands on a regular basis, and take other precautions like not sharing publicly used or personal items. The foot is also very prone to pick up bacteria from the floor. The infection often begins with a little cut, then gets infected with bacteria.