Saturday, October 20, 2007

Yet Another Reason Not to Send Your Kids to School

From the New York Times:

"Schools in Several States Report Staph Infections, and Deaths Raise the Alarm

SANDY SPRING, Md., Oct. 18 — When the football players here at Sherwood High School were not getting the message about washing their uniforms and using only their own jerseys, the school nurse paid a surprise visit to the locker room. She brought along a baseball bat.

“Don’t make me use this,” the nurse, Jenny Jones, said, pointing out that seven players on the team had already contracted a deadly drug-resistant strain of bacteria this year. “Start washing your hands,” she said. “I mean it.”

School officials around the country have been scrambling this week to scrub locker rooms, reassure parents and impress upon students the importance of good hygiene. The heightened alarm comes in response to a federal report indicating that the bacteria, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, are responsible for more deaths in the United States each year than AIDS.

MRSA (pronounced MEER-suh) is a strain of staph bacteria that does not respond to penicillin or related antibiotics, though it can be treated with other drugs. The infection can be spread by sharing items, like a towel or a piece of sports equipment that has been used by an infected person, or through skin-to-skin contact with an open wound.

On Wednesday and Thursday, scores of schools were closed and events were canceled in Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia as cleaning crews disinfected buses, lockers and classrooms. More closings are planned on Friday.

School officials in Mississippi, New Hampshire and Virginia reported student deaths within the past two weeks from the bacteria, while officials in at least four other states reported cases of students being infected. ..."

I know about MRSA. DH is a dermatologist after all, MRSA is a skin thing, and Klaus actually had a MRSA scalp infection of unknown origin when he was in 4th or 5th grade. Luckily, DH looked into it (or at it) and treated it, because I was not even considering taking Klaus to the doctor for it. I thought it was just a scratch.

The NYT article points out that 85% of MRSA cases are in health care settings, meaning you catch it when you're in the hospital spending large amounts of time around other sick people where the building hygiene is difficult to I the only one who thinks this description also sounds like a school? Anyone who has walked by a high school weight room knows the heat and humidity (not to mention the stench!) in there is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. And teenaged boys are not the most hygienic of creatures. Trust me on this, those of you with 5 hours a day showering daughters.

Now, I'm not in the habit of using scare tactics to encourage people to homeschool. Homeschooling isn't the best choice for every family. And MRSA can be transmitted by family members. But I am alarmed at the idea of putting my kids' health in the hands of other kids (like with MRSA) or other parents (like the large numbers of parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children. We actually had a whooping cough outbreak in our city two years ago. If everyone had been appropriately vaccinated, pertussis would be a non-issue, like smallpox.)

So if your child is in a public school or daycare setting, keep an eye on any open wounds, make sure they're treated with antibiotic ointment and keep them covered. If you see any cuts that aren't healing like they should (within a week), please, see a doctor. That goes for everybody.


Zany Mom said...

That and the day I read this there was an article on students being sexually assaulted by teachers and how accused teachers just quietly move on to other districts rather than lose their teaching license.

B&B said...

Great Post!
The day this article came out, my spouse who's a Lt. EMT Firefighter came home and said he was so happy that we homeschool then he went on to tell me about this. I have also noticed that since pulling all my kids from public school, we no longer have to deal with the yearly head lice which I consider a plague of Florida schools. At this point, I can't say much good about the schools here. Most of the smart kids (IB, AP, Gifted) get fed up and drop out. The schools do not take care of the intellectual students and now we have to worry about deadly viruses? No thank you.