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Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Local schools ready for MRSA

By Shelley Grieshop
Health departments in the Grand Lake area are educating local schools and reassuring parents about an antibiotic-resistant bacteria diagnosed in several area students in recent weeks.
Mercer County-Celina City Health Department officials, including Health Commissioner Dr. Philip Masser and Infectious Disease Control Nurse Joyce Jansen, gave an educational presentation Tuesday night at Celina City Schools to more than 100 area educators, coaches, custodial workers and school nurses following the recent diagnosis of a Marion Local Schools student.
Jansen said the session was meant to calm parents and instruct schools on how to properly prevent the methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and its spread.
"We want to let parents know that our school officials are eager to learn and are taking all appropriate steps," she said.
The student at Marion Local responded well to the first round of antibiotics given and other students and staff were never at risk, officials said.
Jansen's counterpart in Auglaize County, Deb Scheer, said more than one school in the county has dealt with students and/or staff members with confirmed MRSA cases since the beginning of the school year, but she refused to identify the schools.
"I don't think it's fair to the school to point fingers like that," she said, adding the situation is under control.
Scheer said appropriate steps were taken in Auglaize County, too; she presented an educational program on MRSA at St. Marys City Schools this morning and has other sessions scheduled for area nursing homes.
Both nurses said the local MRSA cases are not related and therefore the incidents are not considered an epidemic. MRSA cases do not have to be reported to the health department. Many cases go undiagnosed each year, they said.
MRSA is unfortunately not as rare as it once was in the U.S. and can be quite serious, the women said. The problem arises when antibiotics do not work on the resistant staph strains.
Athletes are reminded to take showers after practice and games, wash sweaty clothes and towels and wipe down and never share athletic equipment like shoulder pads. Keeping skin healthy and hands washed frequently remains the biggest weapon against MRSA, she said. Everyone should take special care of their skin.
Health officials have instructed school janitors to carefully follow the directions on the disinfectants they use for cleaning.
Both health departments will give presentations on MRSA to any organizations or schools interested.
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