A 17 year old student from Virgina has died as a result of the superbug MRSA, which is normally associated with deaths in hospitals (especially in the U.K.). The students at Staunton River High School in Moneta Virginia, decided that they would not return to class until the school had been cleaned up. They got the message out to other students and used popular social programs such as Facebook to get their message out to other schools, that something had to be done about the cleanliness of their schools.
One of the students accompanied a school superintendent on a tour of the school, where she pointed out the lack of hygiene in the bathrooms and the hallways. The officials closed all schools in the county for a week in order to clean up the schools.
What is of grave concern, though, is that the death of this 17 year old from Virginia is not an isolated incident. School officials in Connecticut have confirmed that one student at Weston High and another at Newtown High have been diagnosed with MRSA. In Rockville, Maryland, at least 13 students have been diagnosed with MRSA. Cases have been reported in Ohio, Michigan and other states, including elementary school children.
A study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that MRSA infections occurred in nearly 95,000 Americans in 2005. Based on those figures, an estimated 18,650 people died due to their MRSA infection in 2005. That death rate is higher than the HIV/AIDS death rate for that year, and the number of MRSA related deaths is much higher than previously thought.
Pat Mshar, an epidemiologist for Connecticut's Department of Health -- which contributed data to the JAMA study -- said the consolidation of statistics was groundbreaking. "This is the first time that we've been able to measure this in a population basis in which we've been able to quantify the impact," she said. According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 25 to 30 percent of the population carry staphylococcus bacteria -- one of the most common causes of infection -- in their bodies. While such infections are usually minor, invasive MRSA infections can become fatal because they are caused by drug-resistant staph. Dr. Julie Gerberding, the director of the CDC, says these infections are not new. "It's important to appreciate that many of these infections are the same infections moms have been dealing with for decades. They're very preventable," she says. "If you see a skin infection that looks like the redness is getting bigger or if it's associated with a lot of swelling around the wound or if the individual has a fever, those are reasons to definitely seek doctor's attention. But most of the time these are things that can be treated with the same kind of common sense approach that is we've been using for years." Mshar emphasized that the highest rate of MRSA deaths -- 58 percent -- is found in hospitals.It seems that it is not only the U.K. that needs to get its act together to ensure that these infections are kept under control. The death toll from these superbugs is much too high, and a lot more needs to be done about the cleanliness of the school toilets and hallways, as well as the general level of cleanliness inside the hospitals.