Area schools watching for staph

Several cases of MRSA reported in Prescott

A staph infection resistant to some antibiotics has been reported in Prescott High School and Bradshaw Mountain High School. So far, no cases have been reported in Cottonwood or Camp Verde area public schools.

Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a staph infection that often affects skin and is resistant to some common antibiotics. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, MRSA is primarily spread through direct contact with infected skin or soiled bandages from an infected wound. It is also spread through sharing personal hygiene items such as soap, towels and razors.

A confirmed case of MRSA was reported about three weeks by the Humboldt Unified School District.

Tim Carter, Yavapai County Schools Superintendent, said several cases have been reported at Prescott High School, some of them during the summer.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Clarkdale-Jerome, Mingus Union High School, Beaver Creek and Camp Verde school districts have not had reported cases of MRSA. But they are watching for it and taking action to help prevent an outbreak.

Barb U'Ren, superintendent of Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District said the schools in C-OC have not reported any cases of the infection. She said a letter is going home with students Friday to all parents stressing hygiene. A similar letter already has been sent home to parents in the Beaver Creek School District.

When the cases were reported in the Prescott and Prescott Valley areas, C-OC took action. "Our nurses took a look at it," U'Ren said. "I met with PE teachers and nurses to reiterate disinfecting." She said they also discussed the importance of watching the kids.

She said district custodians have a required routine they go through to disinfect infection hot spots on campuses. But now they are being told to upgrade those efforts. Places such as drinking fountains, nurse's stations and wrestling mats are given extra attention.

U'Ren said the district is doing all the right procedures. "We do a good job and want to raise awareness," she said.

Same thing at Clarkdale-Jerome School District. Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor said the school has not seen any cases of MRSA. "We've been fortunate," she said.

But the district staff is being extra cautious. Fleenor said district custodians have stepped up procedures for cleaning places such as bathrooms. Physical education and playground equipment gets extra cleaning attention.

"We already use Clorox water at lunch and have kids wash their hands," Fleenor said.

A nurse for the Camp Verde School District said "We haven't had any MRSA that we know of." The nurse at Mingus Union High School also reported no cases.

Carter said his office watches MRSA closely and has sent out information to county districts.

"Nationally, there are people dying from this," Carter said. "The numbers are rising."

He said that the state health department says MRSA "isn't something you should close school for." But Carter doesn't take the threat lightly.

He said every school district should have, as part of their emergency management plan, something to handle situations such as MRSA infections.

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