Rumors have swirled that a student in the school district has methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, a dreaded bug that has made national news recently with the death of a teen in Virginia.
The rumor's not true, according to Sunnyside School District Superintendent Rick Cole.
Cole said that the student was being treated at a local hospital for an infection and his mother opted to drive him to Harborview. And, Cole said, "There's no evidence that it's (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus). I checked that thoroughly."
According to Marianne Patnode, Program Director for Yakima County Health's Communicable Disease Department, there are currently no regulations that make reporting such infections mandatory. But, she said, the health department works with many local labs that track statistics pertaining to the bug.
She said that the bug has been around "forever," but the percentage of antibiotic resistant strains has increased in the last five to six years from 20 percent to 50 to 60 percent.
It's important to note that while it's resistant to most antibiotics, it's not resistant to all.
Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus can either be acquired in a health care or community setting.
According to information provided by the health department, it often causes skin infections.
In terms of appearance, it often looks like a spider bite, infected skin, boils or abscesses or impetigo. It has to be treated by a health care provider who may drain the infection and or prescribe antibiotics.
Here's how a person can get infected:
- touching the skin of an infected person
- touching surfaces that have the bacteria on them
- sharing personal hygiene items (bar soap, towels)
- not having resources to keep clean
- overusing antibiotics, stopping them early or missing doses.
Patnode said a person can do all the right things to prevent it, but a person could still become infected.
Ways to avoid getting the bug include good personal hygiene, she said. Practice good hand washing, which means wash your hands several times a day for at least 15 seconds with soap and water. "Apply (soap) to all surfaces of the hands using friction and scrub," she said.
"Hand sanitizers are an option. Keep a small bottle in your pocket, as there may not always be a sink available. It's a great alternative to hand soap."
Another tip Patnode has is to keep hands away from the face. Staphylococcus aureus is a bacteria that is on everyone's skin, notably on the face and perineal area.
In places like gyms, Patnode said it's not uncommon to see disinfectant wipes and spray bottles with cleaner. Use them to clean equipment, she said.
"No one with an open sore or lesion should be working out in a gym," she added.
Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus enters the body through a break or crack in the skin, she said. "When the bacteria enters that opening, it's always an opportunity for a variety of bacteria and viruses to enter the skin."
Even for families, and especially in locker rooms, Patnode said it's a very bad idea for people to share a bar of soap.
For athletes, Patnode provided the following information in terms of washing hands:
- wash hands before and after practice, games or working out
- whenever there is bare skin contact with others or shared equipment
- after sneezing, coughing, blowing or touching your nose
- before and after touching wounds, mucous membranes, non-intact skin, like acne, boils and skin rashes
- after touching items soiled with wound fluids, like dresses or bedding
- after cleaning the bathroom, changing bedding, or doing laundry
- before preparing food, eating or drinking.
Cole said that he understands that people are concerned. But, he said, "We have cleaning procedures in place in all of our rooms and locker rooms, etc."