San Andreas, Ca — Last month, four Calaveras High School athletes were found to have staph infections, which prompted questions and concerns among parents.
In response, the Calaveras County Public Health Department has sent recommendations to local schools about how to prevent staph infections on campus. Calaveras County Health Officer Dr. Dean Kelaita says that all of the aforementioned students have healed, and no new infections have been identified at any of the Calaveras County schools.
Kelaita says that skin infections caused by staphyloccal bacteria (staph) are not uncommon. Health officials in California and the U.S. are concerned about increasing numbers of staph infections that are resistant to some antibiotics, called MRSA (methicillin resistant stapylococcus aureus).
The information sent to Calaveras County schools explained that staph and MRSA infections are spread mainly through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. It is also spread by contact with an infected wound or sore. Persons with a cut or abrasion on their skin are at higher risk of infection. It may also occasionally be spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or items such as towels. It is not spread through the air.
Kelaita says Staph and MRSA skin infections can start as a sore that looks like a spider bite. Red and painful bumps under the skin, a swollen cut with pus, or a red and warm skin area can indicate a skin infection. “Persons with a skin infection that does not get better in a few days should contact their doctor or clinic,” Dr Kelaita advises.
Most cases of MRSA are associated with hospitals. MRSA infections occurring in community settings are also increasing. “In most areas of the U.S., over half of staph skin infections are resistant to commonly used antibiotics,” says Kelaita.
Because MRSA is increasing, it is becoming more common for children and youth to be diagnosed and treated. While MRSA is resistant to more common antibiotics, several stronger antibiotics are effective in treating the infection.
The Public Health Department says that students with staph or MRSA skin infections can attend school and participate in sports, unless they hear differently from a doctor.
Kelaita says the spread of skin infections can be prevented by simple measures such as hand hygiene and covering of infected areas. Washing hands with soap and water, or using an alcohol based hand sanitizer is the most important way to prevent the spread of skin infections.
Written by BJ Hansen