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MRSA Public Notice

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)


What is MRSA? 
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”) bacteria.  “Staph” is a common type of bacteria that may be frequently found on healthy persons’ skin and in their noses.  It can also grow in sores or other sites in the body, sometimes causing an infection.  Penicillin is an antibiotic that was once commonly used to treat staph infections. 

Many staph bacteria are no longer killed by penicillin and antibiotics related to penicillin.  These new or resistant forms of Staphylococcus aureus cause MRSA infections, and they require special medications because some antibiotic medications will not kill the bacteria.  The illnesses they cause are the same as those caused by other staph; the difference is in how they are treated.

What are the symptoms of MRSA infection? 
Frequently a MRSA infection looks like a pimple, rash, boil, or an open wound.  Sometimes people think it is a spider bite. The skin infection caused by MRSA can have redness, warmth, swelling, pus, and/or pain.  If not treated properly, MRSA skin infection may progress quickly from a soreness of the skin to an abscess or other serious body infection.  Many people carry staph bacteria on their skin without any symptoms.

How is MRSA spread? 
MRSA lives on skin and can live on objects for 24 hours or more.  Drainage or pus from skin lesions can spread MRSA bacteria to other parts of a person’s body or to other persons.  MRSA can rub off the skin of an infected person onto the skin of the other person during body contact.  MRSA can also come off the infected skin of a person onto a shared object or surface and get onto the skin of the next person who uses it.  Examples of shared objects include razors, towels, clothing, and sporting equipment. 

How long are people contagious?
Persons can spread MRSA as long as they are carrying it.

Who gets MRSA?
Anyone can get MRSA.  Just like normal staph bacteria, MRSA normally does not cause disease unless it enters an opening in the skin.  Some people are at a greater risk for carrying MRSA or becoming infected with this type of “staph.”  It occurs more frequently in people in hospitals and healthcare facilities.  However, it can also happen outside the hospital in people who either receive multiple antibiotics or come in frequent contact with the germ.  This may occur when they have close contact with a person carrying the bacteria or by touching objects “dirtied” or contaminated with MRSA (e.g., clothes, towels, bedding, sporting equipment, benches in saunas or hot tubs, bandages).  Crowded living conditions (schools, jails) and poor hygiene can contribute to the spread of MRSA infections.

What treatment is available for people with MRSA?
Early treatment can help prevent the infection from getting worse.  If you have a bad abscess, the doctor should drain the pus.  If you are given medicine, be sure to take all of your pills.  Be sure to follow directions from your doctor, even when you start to feel better. 

Do infected people need to be kept home from school, work or daycare?
No.  Persons with MRSA skin infections should keep the infected area covered with clean, dry pads.  They may need to avoid certain activities such as gym class to prevent the covering from coming off.

How can I protect myself and my family from getting MRSA? 

  • Wash your hands a lot with soap and warm water. 
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean with soap and water. 
  • Do not pick, touch, or scratch your skin infections or touch someone else’s sores.
  • Avoid skin contact and sharing personal items with anyone you think could have an MRSA skin infection. 
  • Don’t insist on antibiotics for colds or other viruses. 
  • If prescribed antibiotics, take all the pills, even if you feel better before they are all gone


Aztec Schools Response and Actions

Why is MRSA a problem for schools? 
There are several reasons why schools are concerned about MRSA. 

  • MRSA infections are becoming more common in community settings, including schools.
  • MRSA can be spread by direct contact. In school settings, there are many opportunities for direct contact among students, especially those on athletic teams. 
  • MRSA outbreaks can cause anxiety for parents, students and staff. 
  • Identifying a MRSA infection can be difficult because the signs and symptoms of MRSA infection are similar to those of other skin infections.
  • MRSA can only be diagnosed by laboratory testing that includes information about which antibiotics will most likely be effective in treatment. 
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of MRSA infection can result in serious complications. 

Which groups in the school are most at risk for MRSA infection? 
Factors that have been associated with the spread of MRSA skin infections include close skin-to-skin contact, openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions, contaminated items and surfaces, crowded living conditions and poor personal hygiene. School athletic teams have reported MRSA infections and some colleges have reported MRSA infection cases in residential dormitories. 

Should a student or staff member with MRSA be at school? 
Yes, students and staff with a MRSA infection can attend school regularly as long as the wound is covered and they are receiving proper treatment. Students and staff do not need to be isolated or sent home in the middle of the day if a suspected MRSA infection is noticed. 

What should I do if a student or staff member at my school is reported to have MRSA? 
Do not panic and follow routine infection control precautions. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Wear gloves when handling the student, or touching blood, body fluids, secretions, excretions and any items contaminated with these fluids. 

If a student or staff member with MRSA attends school does the school need to close or undergo a special cleaning?
No, follow routine procedures for cleaning the school with a freshly prepared solution of commercially available cleaner such as detergent, disinfectant-detergent or chemical germicide. 

What should I do if more than one student in my school is reported to have MRSA? 
Follow the guidelines above. In addition, please contact the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) (505-827-0006) if you suspect more than one case of MRSA at your school. 

Do I need to alert parents and staff members if a student has a MRSA infection? 
Typically, it is not necessary to inform the entire school community about a MRSA infection. If there are questions about alerting parents or staff please consider consulting with NMDOH (505-827-0006) prior to parent/staff notification. 

To prevent MRSA infections at the school, consider these guidelines: 

  • Regular handwashing is the best way to prevent getting and spreading staph/MRSA. Encourage and practice hand hygiene. 
  • Practice and encourage good skin care. Since staph infections start when staph enter the body through a break in the skin, keeping skin healthy and intact is an important preventative measure. 
  • Ensure access to sinks, soaps, and clean towels. 
  • Ensure the availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, if soap and water are not accessible. 
  • Encourage daily showers with soap and water. 
  • Discourage sharing of personal items such as towels, razors, and toothbrushes. 
  • Regularly clean sinks, showers, and toilets by saturating with disinfectant. 
  • Disinfect athletic equipment between users. 
  • Launder sheets, towels, sports uniforms, and underclothing with hot water and detergent, and dry on the hottest setting. 
  • Wear gloves when handling dirty laundry. 
  • Wear gloves when caring for another person’s wounds, and protect clothing from touching wounds or bandages. 
  • Encourage those infected to always keep draining lesions covered with dressings. 
  • Dispose of dressings containing pus and blood carefully. 
  • Disinfect contaminated portable equipment such as stethoscopes, blood-pressure cuffs, equipment handles, tourniquets, pagers, and cell phones. 

Are there special considerations for students with immune suppression?
Students with weakened immune systems may be at risk for more severe illness if they get infected with MRSA. These students should follow the same prevention measures as all others to prevent skin infections, including practicing good personal hygiene, covering wounds (e.g., cuts or abrasions) with clean dry bandages, avoiding sharing personal items such as towels and razors, and contacting their doctor if they think they have an infection.