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MRSA, Antibiotic Resistant Staph ‘Superbug’ Plaguing Schools

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MRSA, short for methicillin-resistant Staphlococcus aureas, has been ravaging schools across the country this year. The drug resistant infection has been reported in schools in at least a half dozen states, and has killed one student in Virginia. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), MRSA, characterized as a “Superbug” by some, is responsible for more deaths each year in the United States than the AIDS virus.

MRSA is a bacterium that causes staff infections on various parts of the body. Most often, it causes mild infections on the skin, causing pimples or boils. But it can also lead to more serious skin infections or infect surgical wounds, the bloodstream, the lungs, or the urinary tract. Depending on where the MRSA infection occurs, it can be life threatening. MRSA is difficult to treat, because it is resistant to many common antibiotics.

The CDC says MRSA infections kill about 250 people each day. About 90,000 Americans come down with MRSA every year, and of that about 19,000 die from the infection. Although it is resistant to antibiotics, there are other drugs that are effective against MRSA if it is caught early.

Outbreaks of MRSA are usually limited to hospitals, where various bacteria thrive. But over the last several weeks, many states have reported outbreaks of MRSA in schools. MRSA has sickened students in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Hampshire, to name a few. In most cases, students with symptoms are sent home until they recover, and letters are sent to parents informing them of the MRSA outbreak. Most students have had mild infections that have cleared up over time.

But one student in Virginia was not so lucky. The 17-year-old student died after struggling with MRSA for a week. Students at the Moneta, Virginia high school the boy attended were so alarmed by his death that they organized a rally, refusing to return to school until action was taken to prevent more cases of MRSA. School officials have closed all 22 schools in the district so that they can be scrubbed down and sanitized.

But there are ways for individuals to stop MRSA. The best ways to prevent a MRSA infection is good hygiene. The CDC says that it is important to always treat and cover any open wounds. Under no circumstances should individuals share personal items such as towels or razors. Students participating in sports or gym class should always shower with soap immediately after physical activity. And it is important to disinfect athletic gear and equipment after use, because MRSA germs can live on surfaces for 24 hours. And finally, one of the most important things anyone can do to prevent MRSA is to routinely wash hands – before and after meals, and especially after using the bathroom.

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