Staph infections are becoming a problem outside of hospitals, where the infection is usually associated.
More cases of antibiotic-resistant staph infections, known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), are being diagnosed in students.
Three students in the Richmond, Ind., School Corporation have reported the infection, as well as a student at Washington Junior High School in southern Indiana, and a student at Norwell High School in Ossian, Ind.
On Monday, Oct. 15, a high school student in Bedford, Va., died from the infection, and schools all over the area were shut down.
According to WebMD, staph bacteria is carried by healthy people, and only causes infections if it gets into the body, usually through a cut.
Usually, the infection is not serious and only affects the skin.
Sometimes though, staph can cause pneumonia or infect wounds.
MRSA is spread through contact with persons who have the infection or objects that have the bacteria on them.
MRSA infections are becoming harder to treat because, over time, the bacterium has evolved into strains that are resistant to antibiotics.
Community Associate MRSA (CA-MRSA) is a staph infection in a person who is not in the hospital. The rate of CA-MRSA is growing significantly.
The infection is more common in populations that share close quarters and have more physical contact.
This includes athletes, prisoners, and military personnel.
Symptoms of the infection include suspicious rashes, and fluid filled pimples or bumps on the skin.
Although most cases of MRSA are passed by contact, the bacteria can get into the lungs.
St. Vincent Clay Infection Control Nurse Penny Schafer said that usually, MRSA takes the form of one large pustule that looks like a spider bite.
If the infection bursts, "It's almost like a volcano," Schafer said.
What are the Clay Community Schools doing to protect the students from CA-MRSA?
Charley Jackson, Athletic Director at Northview High School, said that the locker rooms in the high school are cleaned and disinfected every day, after sports practices are over.
Also, students are instructed to clean weight lifting equipment after use.
A custodian is also responsible for cleaning the weight room after school.
Jackson said the school corporation sent home a letter Oct. 19 to parents about the spread of infection.
The letter advises student athletes to wash with soap after practices, games or meets.
Lynn Stoelting, the school corporation nurse, said that the letter was sent out to remind parents to watch for the symptoms, since they are "so used to seeing bumps and scrapes."
According to The Indianapolis Star, Richmond Community Schools sent home a letter with students Thursday, Oct. 18, with tips on how to prevent the spread of infection.
The letter included cleaning and covering cuts and scrapes, and not sharing personal items.
Stoelting went to the State School Nurses conference earlier this week, where presentations on the spread of MRSA were given.
Stoelting said that she received information and resources to give to coaches and staff, including a Power Point presentation.
Stoelting said that she will be doing a coaches in-service, as well as speak to the Northview basketball teams.
When asked if students take the spread of infections seriously, Jackson said, "I hope so, because it can be very serious if it's not taken care of."
A health professional should look at any suspicious rashes or outbreaks, and parents should notify the school if an infection is the cause.
Students in the corporation diagnosed with MRSA must have a doctor's release letter before returning to school.
Nurse Schafer added, "The biggest thing is to wash your hands."
If soap is unavailable, use an alcohol-based antibacterial gel that is at least 62 percent alcohol.
She also said that athletic equipment, such as football shoulder pads, need regular cleaning with a bleach solution.
Clay City Jr./Sr. High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Chris Ross could not be reached for comment.
For more information, the Centers for Disease Control website features a Frequently Asked Questions section on MRSA at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/MRSAinSchool....