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Preventing the Spread of MRSA in NJ Schools [AUDIO]

Two high school students in Mercer County were hospitalized with MRSA infections over the past several weeks. The issue at Steinert High School allegedly started within the locker rooms, which have been thoroughly cleaned since.

Hand washing
Practicing good personal hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, can help prevent the spread of staph infections like MRSA. (Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

The state Department of Health said they have not been notified of any MRSA outbreaks at other schools. Prevention is key, though, to keep the infection out of your community and out of your child’s way.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that’s resistant to common antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin. It can spread from person to person or through contamination of a contact surface. Open skin, from wounds to hair follicles, can serve as a gateway for the infection.

Schools and their lockers rooms can be the perfect breeding grounds for MRSA, as factors associated with its growth include crowded conditions and close skin-to-skin contact.

Hamilton Township Health Officer Jeff Plunkett added, “In an athletic situation, clearly (MRSA) can spread through lack of personal hygiene – sharing equipment, sharing razors.”

Practicing good personal hygiene has been the primary advice from health officials on battling staph infections. Wash your hands, cover cuts and scrapes with a clean bandage, take a shower immediately after any activity that involves contact with another person, and don’t share certain personal items like razors and towels.

According to Centers for Disease Control, MRSA in healthcare settings usually leads to more severe and possibly fatal infections. In the community setting, though, MRSA skin infections can have minor effects if noticed and treated early. The infections often look like insect bites before they become red, swollen or full of pus.

Plunkett said the Hamilton school system went “above and beyond” prompts from health officials, once the MRSA problem was discovered, and they met every recommendation almost immediately. MRSA literature was sent home with the schools’ student athletes; the information was also posted on the district’s web site. He also noted both hospitalized students were treated and released.

Nearly five years ago, an outbreak of MRSA put health officials on high alert across the nation. Last May, one case was reported at the Wall Township Primary School in Monmouth County.

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