Sudents' health threat addressed

Monday, August 31, 2009

Parents taking their children to school Wednesday were alarmed to see MRSA had been added to a list of contagious diseases on the doors of the pre-kindergarten classrooms at Oak Grove Elementary School.

"None of us wanted to leave our kids," concerned parent Teri Foster said Thursday.

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It is harder to treat than some infections because, as the name implies, it is resistant to treatment by common antibiotics.

In Dickson County this week, a Creek Wood High School student at Charlotte has been diagnosed with MRSA. An 11-year-old girl from Sumner County died from a MRSA infection in March 2009.

"We're looking out for the safety of all our students," assistant director Roy Dukes assured parents. "We followed state guidelines on disinfection, we're documenting what we do, and we're also disinfecting day to day."

Oak Grove principal Judy Rickman said that the school was notified by parents that a child had been diagnosed with MRSA at AJ Medical.

"Everything has been put into place according to state guidelines," Rickman said. "We've cleaned and done extra cleaning, following all the rules and guidelines. All precautions have been taken."

When asked why the sign on the classroom door wasn't in Spanish as well, Rickman said, "That's a good question."

She went on to explain that pre-kindergarten procedures are a little different from regular school. Children are signed in and out every day, so teachers are in contact with parents twice a day. Thus, teachers presumably know that all parents of children in the two pre-kindergarten classes can read English.

MRSA is spread by contact with an infected person, or with objects that have the bacteria on them. It most often causes mild infections on the skin, resulting in pimples or boils. It can also cause more serious skin infections or infect surgical wounds, the bloodstream, the lungs, or the urinary tract.

The best way to prevent the spread of MRSA is to wash hands frequently, avoid sharing personal items, and keep wounds covered.

A rumor that there was no soap in the Oak Grove restrooms has been strenuously denied by Rickman, who said the school has had new soap dispensers installed and there is plenty of soap in them.

Staphylococcus is a common bacteria that can live on our bodies. Plenty of healthy people carry "staph" without being infected by it. But staph can be a problem if it manages to get into the body, often through a cut. Once there, it can cause an infection. Staph is one of the most common causes of skin infections in the U.S. Usually, these are minor and don't need special treatment. Less often, staph can cause serious problems like infected wounds or pneumonia.

Staph can usually be treated with antibiotics. But over the decades, some strains of staph -- like MRSA -- have become resistant to antibiotics that once destroyed it. MRSA was first discovered in 1961. It's now resistant to methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and many other antibiotics.

While some antibiotics still work, MRSA is constantly adapting. Researchers developing new antibiotics are having a tough time keeping up.