MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) has threatened patients in hospitals and nursing homes for decades and has recently become a problem in communities. MRSA commonly produces skin infections, but has also been known to cause potentially lethal blood infections.
Last week, a high school Virginia student died of an untreatable infection and dozens of other students across the country have been diagnosed with difficult-to-treat infections.
Each new day brings a new case of MRSA. Since the outbreak began, hundreds of schools and daycares have been forced to shut down to disinfect hallways, classrooms, cafeterias and other areas frequented by students.
On Wednesday, representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met with Congress to discuss the outbreak. The same day, New York Senator Charles Schumer asked George Bush to remove the threat of veto from a proposed bill that will provide $5 million in emergency funding to combat MRSA.
A federal report issued last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated there were more than 94,000 serious MRSA infection related deaths in the United States in 2005. The same report said that nearly 19,000 MRSA related deaths occurred, more than the number of AIDS related deaths in the same year. Over 85 percent of the MRSA infections occurred in hospitalized patients in health care institutions.
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Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about MRSA. All information is courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Is MRSA Easily Transmitted in Schools?
Yes. MRSA can be transmitted through skin to skin contact. Students who are in crowded daycares, classrooms, hallways and athletic facilities are especially susceptible. MRSA can also be transmitted through contact with surfaces and items that have been in contact with an infected skin.
Do Schools Always Close When a MRSA Infection Occurs
No. In fact, the CDC says it is not necessary to close schools because a student has a MRSA infection (in most cases). Ultimately, the decision to close a school is made by school and local public health officials. When schools do close, they typically do so to disinfect shared surfaces, such as lockers, desks and athletic equipment. Cleaning such surfaces can effectively remove MRSA.
How Can Students Protect Themselves from MRSA
According to CDC, the best way to prevent the spread of MRSA is to use common sense. Hands should be washed frequently and all rashes, cuts, and abrasions should be covered with bandages until healed. Students should also avoid sharing personal items and if possible, shared surfaces.