April 23 • 08:58 AM

District reacts to MRSA cases

Capac reports three staph infections, other area schools take precautions

October 24, 2007
CAPAC — When school district officials sent letters to parents home with students on Oct. 10 and 11 regarding two reports of student staph infections, they weren't certain that the strain was the Methicillin-resistant type known as MRSA.

Schools Supt. Jerry Jennex said the district learned about the infections through parent reports. It wasn't until Friday, Oct. 19 that he received verbal reports from parents that the infections were indeed MRSA.

"After the reports we did some research and found information from the Ingham County Health Department," Jennex said. "We sent a letter home to parents informing them that a couple of cases were reported."

Jennex said the district brought in extra workers to disinfect the buildings and sent another letter on Oct. 11 to let parents know what was going on.

"As soon as we found out we reacted and did the best we could."

Jennex said the infected students attended the junior/senior high school and one had access to the middle school.

"We are grateful that the parents informed us (of the staph infections) and we were able to take preventative precautions and work together."

Jennex said school officials didn't know how or where the students contracted the infections, and the district has been working with the St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency and health department to stay on top of the situation.

Jennex said the district has not received written confirmation that the infected students were diagnosed with MRSA.

"Through the parent and student information network we were informed at the end of last week that the infections were in fact, MRSA."

Even without the verbal confirmation, Jennex said, the school district reacted as soon as they learned that two students were diagnosed with staph infections.

"We sent letters on October 10 and 11, reacting at the first information still not knowing whether it was MRSA or some other strain," Jennex said.

On Tuesday, school staff participated in an in-service video conference with the St. Clair County Health Department to learn more about staph infections.

"We want key personnel to be informed about the best way to deal with staph infections," Jennex said.

School districts are not required to report staph infections to the health department.

"Our job is to educate students, and not necessarily be experts in matters of public health," he continued. "We do everything we can to provide a safe learning environment."

Jennex said he's received no new reports of staph infections from parents.

MRSA infections made national headlines in recent weeks after the disease claimed the life of a Virginia student. Outbreaks also forced the closing of several schools.

According to health department officials, MRSA bacteria causes skin infections that are resistent to antibiotics. Symptoms range from minor skin irritations like pimples and boils, redness and swelling to more serious symptoms such as fever, headache and malaise.

MRSA is spread from person-to-person skin contact or through skin contact with contaminated items.

Along with the above, risk factors include crowded living conditions, inadequate personal hygiene, cuts or abrasions of the skin, and hospitalization—where according to the Center for Disease Control the majority of cases are contracted.

Preventative steps include good personal hygiene, washing hands often, and keeping cuts and abrasions covered.

The Lapeer County Health Department reported that it's received several calls from local school districts with questions regarding MRSA.

Director Stephanie Simmons said since MRSA is not a reportable disease, they have no confirmation that the strain has affected Lapeer County schools. Simmons said overall, health officials are seeing an increase in MRSA, information she obtained through contact with local hospital officials.

"We do know that there's been an increase across the country and in the area, but we have no information regarding age groups or who it may be affecting."

Imlay City Schools Supt. Gary Richards said they've received no reports of student staph infections, but the district is taking a proactive approach.

Last Friday, staff and school personnel met to discuss preventative measures that have been implemented in the school district.

Those measures include using a disinfectant spray on door handles and railings, and on school bus seats after each morning run. A custodial crew was also called in on Saturday to disinfect the locker rooms, weight room, gym and other areas of the school buildings.

Richards said the district also issued a letter to parents advising them of the precautions in the districts and passing along information on prevention of staph infections.

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