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Friday, October 19, 2007

Here's the skinny on those staph/MRSA stories in the Rockingham County schools

All afternoon numerous reports have been forwarded to The Knight Shift about "confirmed" staph infections - and particularly MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) - running loose throughout the Rockingham County Schools system. This is of especially serious concern in light of numerous cases of MRSA that have been confirmed in Forsyth and Yadkin counties. And word is just coming down the wire that a student at George Washington High School in Danville has been diagnosed with MRSA. So what's going down our way?

I called up the office of Rockingham County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rodney Shotwell earlier this afternoon, to see what he knows. I didn't get to talk to Dr. Shotwell but a very short while later I got a call from Rockingham County Schools spokeswoman Jean Steverson. And this is what the good lady told me...

There are no confirmed MRSA cases in Rockingham County school at this point in time. That doesn't mean that there aren't cases, however. Steverson said that MRSA isn't something that a medical doctor is required to formally report. But as things stand right now, there is no need to panic. Just precaution, Steverson emphasized. Doing things like washing hands on a regular basis, and taking care to bandage open wounds and taking steps to make sure that there is no contact with open bodily tissue (blood, mucous etc.). Steverson also said that the custodial staff at the schools are taking extra precautions to sanitize exposed surfaces with anti-MRSA disinfectants. Athletic departments are also being advised to practice caution.

We talked a bit about how this thing is much like polio: even though polio is a virus, it needs physical contact to get around. It's not like this is an airborne pathogen, like this is "Captain Trips" from Stephen King's The Stand. So long as we tell the kids to be careful, and that we do likewise, we should be cool.

But being cautious is a far cry from paranoia. It's good to be aware and with that in mind, here's a data sheet about MRSA from North Carolina Public Health...

An automated message from Dr. Shotwell is also going out to the phone numbers of all the homes of students and faculty, advising them about the MRSA concerns and relaying the measures being taken to control possible outbreak. In fact, we just got our call in the past few minutes. So you might wanna keep the phone handy for awhile.

And that's everything that we know at this hour.