Precautions taken for staph infection

With word out about the spread of the Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, a type of staph infection that is resistant to commonly used antibiotics, the Leon County Health Department and school officials are taking the necessary precautions to prevent any infections.

“Basic hygiene, such as thorough hand washing should be done at all times no matter what the case,” said Becky D’alessio, a nurse program specialist for the Leon County Health Department. “We should also keep are hands out of our mouths and eyes because they could be possibly contaminated.”

MRSA is spread through skin-to-skin contact and objects that have been contaminated with the bacteria, according to the LCHD.

The infection affects all ages in the community. It is in the schools, shopping centers and playgrounds, said Lorri Pilkingpon, coordinator of health for Leon County Schools. “Even healthy people are susceptible to contracting the disease'” she said.

Health officials say symptoms differ depending on where the infection is located. Most often, the infection results in a mild skin irritation, causing pimples and boils to appear. But the tough MRSA strands that get into the blood stream, lungs, or urinary tract can be deadly.

A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association on Oct. 17 estimated that nearly 19,000 Americans died of MRSA in 2005 compared to the 16,000 AIDS victims.

“We have not been alerted of any infections in our schools,” said Misty Cash, project manger for the Leon County School District. “Although we are aware of the situation that is going on around the state and the country.”

Parents are urged to keep a keen eye on their kids and ensure that they are using good hygiene habits at school and in the home.

If a sore or wound appears medical attention is needed immediately, Pilkingpon said. “Keep the wound covered, so no fluid leaks and contaminates the surrounding areas. The wound needs to remain dry.”

Health officials estimate that about 40 to 50 percent of MRSA patients contract the infection from hospital rooms across the country.

“Treatment for MRSA is dealt with according to the severity of the infection,” D’alessio said.

A mild skin irritation may need skin powders or creams. In severe cases, patients are treated with powerful antibiotics such as vancomycin or teicoplanin. This may lead to serious side effects, leaving patients hospitalized for some time, she added.

“Staph infections have been around a long time and they’re going anywhere,” Pilkingpon said.

The LCHD identifies the trends of the disease then looks at the statistics on how fast it is transmitted. After a more in-depth investigation, they initiate a public message.

“We always work closely with the Health Department to prevent any kind of infection,” Cash said. “Our overall goal at the end of the day is the health and safety of our students. They are our main priority.”