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‘Superbug’ concerns lessen at South End schools

Swift action by the South Whidbey School District and Island County medical officials have lessened parents’ worries over the potential spread of the “superbug” skin infection called MRSA.

On Nov. 5, a 7-year-old Primary School student was diagnosed with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a common staph skin infection that is resistant to some, but not all, antibiotics.

The child was treated and released to his parents.

No other cases have been reported in the county, said county communicable disease supervisor Amy Murdock.

County health officer Dr. Roger Case reported that MRSA symptoms in the community usually show up as skin infections, such as pimples and boils and occur in otherwise healthy people. He stressed that while the presence of MRSA in our communities is common, life-threatening complications are rare.

“MRSA is a collection of different staph strains that are resistant to some antibiotics and quite sensitive to others,” he said. “It is by no means untreatable.”

Case added that prevention is simple and effective.

“How can we prevent MRSA in our schools and elsewhere? Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene,” he said.

“Wipe runny noses, cover cuts, sores or any open wound with band-aids and always wash hands. It doesn’t take anything fancy — soap and water works fine.”

As soon as the South End student was diagnosed, the Primary School’s classroom, bathrooms and common areas were disinfected with a strong product called Hepastat.

Principal Jamie Boyd and school nurse Jill Workman met with three parents on Tuesday who were concerned that the disease could spread.

Many throughout Puget Sound have been concerned about MRSA in recent weeks.

On Oct. 31, Port Townsend schools shut down for several days when a case was reported there.

“Well-intentioned school officials recently lit the fuse on a media powder keg by triggering a school closure,” Case said. “We can solve problems by assuring universal access to high quality health care at the early stages of invasive bacteria infections.”

South Whidbey school officials contacted The Record early the next morning to report the incident and their response.

“I think people are beginning to realize this is a more common occurrence than the media has reported,” District Superintendent Fred McCarthy said. “While we are taking it very seriously, it’s business as usual at our schools.”

He added that parents are encouraged to contact their school’s principal if they have any questions.

More information about MRSA is available at www.doh.wa.gov/topics/antibiotics/mrsa/ or from the Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/Features/MRSAinschools.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidby

record.com.

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