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Advisory Asks Schools to Be On Lookout for Bug

As a handful of extra cases of an antibiotic-resistant bacterial strain were reported in Long Island schools, the state Health Department asked all schools statewide to be on the watch for the infection.

The statewide health advisory was distributed before the city Health Department stated that MRSA was the "probable cause" of a Brooklyn intermediate school student's death.

State health officials referred calls about the death to the New York City Department of Health, but maintained that generally, the infection can be treated without difficulty and severe cases are rare. Still, officials said they want to end the spread of MRSA.

State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines said, "Our goal is to reduce the prevalence of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the community and to quickly identify and properly treat the infections. The medical community should be on the alert to even minor infections that could be caused by MRSA."

Health officials cautioned against panic, noting that the majority MRSA cases are preventable. Schools must report MRSA outbreaks to their local health department, Daines said.

Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease physician at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, said fatalities from MRSA infections are unusual.

Hirsch said, "The worst cases of MRSA can be very, very bad. They are rare compared to other types of health risks and health problems."

Nearly all MRSA infections are skin infections that can appear as pustules or boils that often are red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly all MRSA skin infections can be effectively treated by drainage of pus, with or without antibiotics.

Such infections became an issue of interest this month after a high school senior in southern Virginia died from MRSA.

In the meantime, additional cases were reported at the Roosevelt High School and in the Glen Cove school district.

However, county officials in both Nassau and Suffolk also cautioned that there is not a major health crisis at hand.

"The vast majority of staphylococcal infections, as well as those resistant to some antibiotics, like MRSA, resolve on their own or will respond to simple and appropriate treatments," said Dr. Abby Greenberg, Nassau County's acting commissioner of health.

There have been no reported incidents of severe infections in schools on Long Island.

School officials said previous reports of MRSA infections included two students in the Southampton school district; two students in the Longwood district; and another student in Freeport.

They joined two other students in the Baldwin and Sachem districts, whose infections were also reported this month.

How To Keep The Bug In Check



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