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Two Bulloch students infected with antibiotic resistant staph
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    The Bulloch County School system will send letters out Monday warning parents of the dangers of an antibiotic-resistant staph that has infected at least two students in the county.
    Bulloch County School Superintendent Dr. Lewis Holloway said Friday parents will be given information on MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphyloccoccal aureus , as well as details on how to prevent infection.
    A Southeast Bulloch High School student and a Statesboro High School student has contracted the staph, which can cause sores that resemble spider bites, he said.
    Several cases of MRSA have been reported across the state, and one child in Virginia reportedly died from the infection, Holloway said in a memo to school system employees.
    Citing privacy laws, Holloway would not confirm rumors that the students with MRSA were hospitalized. He denied anonymous comments made to a reporter that two teachers had been affected as well. "We are not aware of any teachers with it," he said.
    While many healthy people carry Staphylococcus aureus on their skin and inside their noses, MRSA is more dangerous because it is resistant to treatment, according to information provided to school systems across the state by  Stuart N. Bennett, Chief Deputy State Superintendent of  Policy and External Affairs.
    School principals and coaches, as well as administrative personnel including Holloway, will meet Monday with officials from the Bulloch County Health Department to discuss methods of preventing and controlling the staph, Holloway said.
    Bulloch County Assistant School Superintendent Lynda Yawn sent a memo to school personnel stating "there is a meeting scheduled to discuss how the system will address the fact that we have students who have been diagnosed with MSRA." The meeting will be Monday, Oct. 29, from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. at the William James Educational Center. School nurses and administrators will also attend.
MRSA - what is it and how to avoid it
   According to information Bennett provided schools statewide, "Approximately 25 to 30 percent of the population are colonized  with staph bacteria (i.e., carry the bacteria without becoming ill).
    The staph can cause a minor skin infection  - a sore or boil - that is successfully treated with antibiotics.
    "However, on occasion, staph bacteria can cause more serious illnesses, such as  infections involving soft tissue, bone, the bloodstream or the lungs," Bennett said.
    A new strain of staph has evolved that is highly resistant to antibiotics,  and staph that is resistant to  methicillin/oxacillin is called methicillin-resistant Staphyloccoccal aureus (MRSA).  Only approximately only one percent of the population  is colonized  with MRSA.
    While MRSA infections have long been linked to people with illnesses staying in health care facilities, "MRSA has now  emerged as a cause of skin and soft tissue infections in previously healthy adults and children  who have not had prior contact with health-care settings," he said.
    This type of MRSA infection is known  as community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA), which  can be transmitted from person to person through close contact.
    The risks of contracting the infection include direct skin-to-skin contact with colonized or  infected persons, sharing  contaminated personal items such as  body towels, razors, soap, clothing; poor personal hygiene,  direct contact with contaminated environmental surfaces, and living in crowded settings, Bennett said.
    Open sores, scratches or cuts serve as a point of entry for the staph.
    An increase in outbreaks of MRSA has been reported on both the national and local level, he said.
    Bennett said the Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention (CDC) recommends focusing on infection control, education and increased awareness.
    School nurses are to take an active role in evaluating students complaining of "painful skin lesions, including lesions that resemble a “bug bite,” or other pustule skin  lesion that appears to be infected," he said. " Any unusual skin lesion or other draining wound is  potentially infectious to others and infection control measures should be in place to  prevent the spread of infection."
    Both school nurses and faculty members supervising athletics  should have a procedure implemented to screen students for signs of possible infection, he said.
    Infected persons with a draining skin lesion are highly likely to infect others. Students with lesions should keep the lesion covered with a clean, dry bandage to contain the drainage, and change the dressing if it comes loose, according to CDC information.
    "If a  wound cannot be adequately covered or the drainage cannot be adequately contained  by the bandage, consider excluding the player from practice or competition until the  lesion is healed," he said.
    Everyone is urged to take extra precautions in discarding dressings and other items that come into contact with the lesion. Basic good hygiene is encouraged, including the use of hot water, soap and even antibacterial gels.
    Sharing personal items such as razors, towels, clothing and sports equipment is discouraged. Even sharing soap can spread the staph.
    Laundering soiled items that may be contaminated should include hot water and being dried on high heat, Barrett said.
    Keeping the environment - counter tops, desks, telephones - clean is also important, he said.
    During the meeting with the health department, Holloway said methods of sanitizing the school buildings will be reviewed to ensure every step possible is being made to prevent the spread of MRSA.
    "We're stepping up our efforts in that arena," he said. "We will examine how we are cleaning our restrooms and athletic facilities."
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