Staph infections hit Northside High School

Published 2:06 am Saturday, September 22, 2007

By Staff
Three confirmed cases, fourth was not
Staff Writer
Beaufort County Schools officials say three Northside High School students, at least two of whom are football players, have contracted staph infections.
All three students are undergoing medical treatment for an antibiotics-resistant form of staph, which is called community-associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in medical terminology.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has public-health management guidelines pertaining to community-associated, or MASA, staph.
CA-MRSA infections usually show up as skin infections, such as pimples and boils, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services
Moss said students have been told “to go to the office, have a nurse look at it and then are referred to a physician for further study.”
The school is working with Dr. Jeff Engel, the chief epidemiologist who works in the state Department of Health and Human Services’ communicable diseases branch. Engel has advised the school to not allow anyone with open wounds to participate in athletic events.
The communicable-disease branch assists counties that have such outbreaks, Engel said. “We probably do about 10 a year. We usually see it on athletic teams, in jails and prison … sometimes day-care centers,” Engel said.
Engel reported that three athletes on the same team were infected at Northside. Moss had conflicting information. He said all of the students were not athletes, but would not elaborate.
The school has been conducting daily cleaning. “Teachers are wiping down desks in the classroom and cleaning every surface area they can,” he said.
Angela Antrican of Washington told the Daily News on Friday that her daughter, a student at Northside, was diagnosed with this kind of staph infection in April 2006.
One of the abscesses on her daughter’s back “burned like fire” and Antrican asked the school if she could leave her shirt untucked. She brought in a doctor’s note.
Moss said he was not informed about the infection in 2006.
Antrican also said more than three students have been and are infected. Her two younger children also contracted MRSA while attending Bath Elementary School, she said.
The infection is not easily cured, she said. “They could come back. Even if you’re treated, they can still come back.”
Her oldest daughter has been “constantly fighting it” since she first noticed the rash in 2006, Antrican said. Her younger daughter had to have a “golf-ball sized piece of tissue removed from underneath her armpit,” Antrican said. “It can leave horrendous scars.”
Carol Kinnion, nursing supervisor with the Beaufort County Health Department, said MRSA is not to be taken lightly. Asked if it can be fatal, she said, “It can be. But is that what is expected? No.”
The appropriate measures are being taken at Northside, Kinnion said.
Engel said an outbreak of MRSA can be stopped through “education, cleaning the environment and … improving hygiene.”