Students need to know about staph infections

Emma Carew

Staph infections have been around for years, but it’s only been in the past month or so that they’ve become a buzz word in schools around the nation.

on the web

For more information on staph, go to the Minnesota Department of Health Web site.

Methicillin-resistant Stapyhylococcus aureus, or MRSA staph infections, have become a major public health issue nationwide after the deaths of two students from the disease earlier this year, Boynton Health Service physician B.J. Anderson said.

The majority of MRSA infections were formerly found in hospital patients (these cases are referred to as “health-care associated MRSA”), especially those who had recently undergone surgery or who had weakened immune systems, Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist Lindsey Lesher said.

The newer cases are called “community-associated MRSA,” she said, and are attacking younger people who were previously healthy.

CA-MRSA poses a difficulty in treatment because it cannot be treated by beta-lactam antibiotics, such as penicillin, Lesher said.

The Minnesota Department of Health released a set of tip sheets and publications for athletes and health-care providers Monday.

Athletes are at a higher risk for staph infections because they have increased skin-to-skin contact and are more likely to have cuts and scrapes on their skin, Lesher said.

Student health advocate Casi Butts said she hadn’t received any information or training on how to raise awareness among students in the residence halls.

People who live in close quarters are also at a slightly higher risk, according to MDH.

Director of Public Health and Communications for Boynton Health Service David Golden said the issue of community-associated MRSA infections is still fairly new and the University hasn’t gotten comprehensive information out to students yet.

“We haven’t gone big on staph awareness,” he said, “the notoriety about it is fairly new.”

“We’ve had a string of e-mails from our other Big Ten counterparts,” he said. “(They’re) really in the same spot we are.”

In other cases of public health issues, the University follows the state’s lead on dissemination of information, Golden said.

More information should be available to students within the next two weeks, he said.

The University football staff has already taken steps toward protecting the student-athletes.

“We’re very aware of it,” football equipment manager Darin Kerns said. “We’re aggressively fighting staph infection.”

Individual, germ-free towels are available on the field for the players during practice, and hand-sanitizing gels are available in the locker rooms, he said. The equipment management staff also uses a special detergent that kills staph bacteria.

“We’re fighting it on three different fronts,” Kerns said.