(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Recent cases -- both nationally and regionally -- of the superbug have prompted local school officials to take a proactive stand to prevent the spread of the antibiotic-resistant and regular forms of staph infections.
In 2005, an estimated 94,000 people in the United States fell ill from the superbug, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It isn't clear how many die from the infection, but it's estimated at about 18,650, which is more than those who die from AIDS.
"Staph is an infection that can be on the skin and cause nothing," said Dr. Chester Spears, a pathologist at Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston.
Staph, or staphylococcus aureus, are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Most of the skin infections are pimples and boils and can be treated without antibiotics. However, staph bacteria also can cause serious infections such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia.
The majority of MRSA infections occur among patients in hospitals or other healthcare settings; however, it is becoming more common in the community setting. Data suggests that 12 percent of clinical MRSA infections are community-associated, but this varies by geographic region and population, CDC said.
"Community acquired MRSA tends to occur in younger patients who participate in contact sports and share various things like linens and clothes," Spears said.
A staph infection can become red and raised with a yellow type of drainage, said registered nurse Amy Nichols of Kelly schools.
"It looks almost like a pimple, and that's how it will start," Nichols said. Call a doctor if the sore is associated with symptoms such as fever, chills, or rash.
So far this year only nine cases of staph infections were reported in the Sikeston R-6 school district, which is comprised of about 3,650 students. None of the staph were MRSA, said registered nurse Nikki Vaught, health services coordinator for Sikeston R-6 school district.
"That's hardly any and no active ones," Vaught said about the number of cases. "We've seen staph for years."
None of the cases were a result of what the school is doing. One student had an infected hair follicle from shaving and others were from spider bites at home, Vaught said.
Sikeston R-6 superintendent Steve Borgsmiller agreed staph infections aren't anything new. Anytime there's a large number of people in confined areas and activities, this will happen, Borgsmiller said.
"I've been around schools for a long time, and we've always had some incidence of staph infections and have always taken the necessary precautions to be proactive, and then in the case where we may have an outbreak higher than normal, we're reactive," Borgsmiller said.
This year Kelly schools in Benton have seen three cases of the staph infections in students grades K-12. East Prairie R-2 has had some cases of staph while Charleston R-1 has seen very minimal cases of staph, school officials said. Officials from Scott County Central and Portageville schools districts said they haven't had any cases of staph infections. None of the local schools reported students having any MRSA cases. Calls to New Madrid County R-1 School District were not returned as of press time.
All school officials said they provided information about staph infections to parents and are working to keep their schools cleaner.
"We're cleaning in the gym area and locker rooms where things might be happening," said Kelly Superintendent Don Moore. "Our nurse sent out information to parents on staph signs and symptoms to be aware of."
Moore said the last time he remembered a staph outbreak was in the 1970s when he was in college. The source of that outbreak was a wrestling mat, he recalled.
As basketball season nears there will be a lot more potential for staph infections to spread, Moore said.
"We've really not had anything tremendously out of the ordinary Pam Allred, school nurse for East Prairie R-2 schools. "It's gotten publicized this year. Everybody was oh my gosh, but it's nothing tremendous."
For the past two years, Charleston R-1 staff have received training on staph infections, said Superintendent Kevin Miller.
"We all know what to watch for and those kinds of things. We are taking extra caution with regard to the locker rooms and sports equipment because everything that we read and see dictates those are some of the most vulnerable areas," Miller said, adding desks are cleaned once a day.
Handwashing and keeping wounds covered are the keys to prevention, Spears said.
"It sounds simple enough, but sometimes the devil is in the detail," Spears said.
This means keeping personal items personal and cleaning with disinfectants, Spears said. Clothes should be washed with hot water and athletes should shower after events. Sitting out of games when infected will also help keep staph infections from being spread, he said.
"I just think people should not panic and continue to use good hygiene," the Sikeston nurse said. "Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If you notice an area that is swollen and red, seek medical attention."