Schools Are Scrambling To Battle Onslaught Of MRSA Infections

Armen Hareyan's picture

MRSA Infections

Schools are scrambling to find ways to combat a growing MRSA problem that experts say will only get worse. MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) is the acronym for a new strain of resistant bacteria that are the cause of severe infections now plaguing schools across the U.S. MRSA infections are extremely painful and can send even the healthiest person to the hospital. Left untreated, MRSA can become a serious infection within hours and infect the heart or lungs and cause pneumonia or death.

"Schools have got to be on their toes with MRSA and prevention," says Dr. Mark Christensen, associate professor of Pharmacy at Oregon State University. "If a school is not prepared, they are asking for an extreme financial hardship."

In Bedford County, Virginia, 21 schools were shut down October 16, after a student died from MRSA. The extra costs associated with closing and disinfecting schools are typically not budgeted for; so schools are being caught off guard. Some parents are taking matters into their own hands to try and get the word out to other parents about MRSA. One such mother, Marci Calantonio, became a MRSA activist after her son John contracted MRSA.

"It became my mission to pass along the knowledge that I have learned in my profession as a medical transcriptionist for the past 25 years," says Calantonio. "Everyone I had spoken to, outside of the medical community, was not knowledgeable at all about CA-MRSA. Coaches, teachers, principals, and school board members alike, were not educated about this bacteria." Calantonio took John to the Children's Medical Center in Washington, D.C. where she was startled to hear doctors there say that they'd seen thousands of cases of MRSA already.


"I wondered why we had not heard about this before," says Calantonio. "I knew I had to step up the educational awareness and make parents aware that this could be their child."

Calantonio stayed at the hospital with her son for a week. During that time she said there were other athletes there, too, including a 17-year old football player, a 14-year old soccer player and a high school swimmer.

Calantonio immersed herself in MRSA information and is quickly becoming an expert on the subject. She says that the general recommendations we hear officials tout, like washing hands to prevent MRSA, are not sufficient. "Washing our hands is not enough. Parents should find out about products that will effectively kill the MRSA bacteria, in clothing and athletic equipment, on surfaces, and on our skin."

The dramatic upswing in MRSA infections has prompted pharmaceutical companies to find new ways to battle the deadly bacteria. One over-the-counter product is called Staphaseptic. According to Tec Labs, manufacturer of the salve, in vitro efficacy studies show the product kills 99.942% of MRSA bacteria. It is applied directly to minor wounds to prevent an infection. Breaks in the skin are the most common entry points for MRSA to enter the body. Calantonio also recommends having hand sanitizing gels available to kids.

"As far as disinfecting wipes go;" she says. "Read the label." Calantonio knows she's got a big job ahead of her.

"I am not trying to cause mass hysteria," says the mother turned advocate. "I only want to present the truth -- not an abridged version of it. Community acquired MRSA can cause infection in the heart, brain, spleen, lung, and any other organ in our body. Many people who have bloodstream infections die." She feels her son was lucky because of her medical background.

"Mother's intuition, immediate communication with medical staff, prompt medical testing, and blood culture led to John's swift diagnosis and treatment," says Calantonio assertively. "If I can help protect one family and one child from going through what my family has dealt with, I will be happy."