To: Parents and caregivers of children of Northern Tioga School District
From: Timothy Bowers, Northern Tioga School District Superintendent
Date: October 26, 2007
Re: Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcal Infections (MRSA)
Due to recent information that the Northern Tioga School District may have students with confirmed cases or MRSA, the district would like to share information that may provide answers and guidance. The exact number of cases is unknown due to the fact that MRSA infections are not required to be reported by physicians or parents to school personnel. The school district is following recommendations from the medical community and the center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/Features/MRSAinSchools).
The following information below has been provided to us from Dr. Kenneth A. Sobel, MD of Southern Tier Pediatrics.
As a school physician, Dr. Sobel felt it is necessary to clarify the recent local and national reporting regarding cases of MRSA infection in the schools. He is sure many of you have been following the news regarding these infections with interest and probably some element of concern. Unfortunately, he feels the news coverage has been somewhat misrepresentative of the facts and is alarmist regarding these infections.
Staphylococcal aureus is a common bacteria which lives normally on human skin - many people are colonized with this bacteria. MRSA is a type of Staphylococcal aureus which has several unfortunate characteristics - it is resistan to many of the common antibiotics used for skin infections and it has the tendency to progress (worsen) rapidly. The most common types of infection caused by Staphylococcus and MRSA are cellulitis, abscess and folliculitis (all skin infections).
Here are facts regarding MRSA:
MRSA is not a new infections! Current press reporting leads one to believe MRSA is a new phenomenon. In fact, MRSA has been present in our communities for years. Your health professionals have been aware of MRSA for years and have adapted their diagnosis and treatment of skin infections accordingly.
Some press reports equate MRSA with "flesh eating" bacteria, which has also been reported on. This is not the case. MRSA is not the same infection.
MRSA is not exclusively a school problem as news reports seem to indicate. In fact, MRSA is common throughout our local and national communities. Taking this into account, the reaction of the school district in Virginia (closing and cleaning the schools) makes no medical sense. People carry MRSA on their skin - sterilization of the school will interrupt education of our children but will not eliminate the presence of MRSA infections.
There is effective antibiotic treatment for MRSA, though choices are limited. Most MRSA infections are treated successfully without need for hospitalization. It is true that in some cases, some of these infections can rapidly progress and require hospitalization. The few cases involving death reported in the media is very unusual - this is not the norm for this type of infection.
People who have MRSA and are being adequately treated do not need to be restricted from work or school!
If a person has signs of skin infection that seems to be worsening rapidly despite good hygiene and topical antibiotic use, they should seek evaluation by a medical professional. This medical advice does not differ from what you already know. The current media reports have elicited an unfortunate, somewhat hysterical response from our community which is unjustified.
I would encourage anyine interested to look up more information on the CDC web site, which has excellent information on this infection. Look up key words - Community Associated MRSA.