Health Services » Contagious Diseases

Contagious Diseases

What is MRSA?
Recent news reports have highlighted the recent emergence of a multi-drug resistant organism called MRSA (methicillin/Oxacillin resistant staphylococcus aureus). Although it has always been a concern in the health care setting, it has recently emerged as a community acquired infection. It is most commonly acquired in hospitals. More recently, MRSA has been reported in increasing numbers among healthy persons or all ages in the community. It is estimated that Staphylococcus aureus bacteria are carried by 30-50% of the population, and easily passed from one person to another. However, the bacteria do not necessarily cause an infection unless there is a break in the skin from an injury, insect bite or scratch. Staph or MRSA infections in the community are usually manifested as skin infections such as pimples and boils in otherwise healthy people.

How can MRSA Infections be prevented?
MRSA is spread through close contact with an infected person; MRSA may also be spread by indirect contact, by touching objects (towels, sheets, wound dressings, clothes, workout areas and sports equipment) contaminated by the infected skin of a person with MRSA. To avoid MRSA, or staphylococcus bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone practice good hygiene:

*Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water.
*Shower or bathe thoroughly after athletic workouts and contact with other players.
*Utilize alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap and water are unavailable.
*Launder athletic uniforms and other athletic clothing in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer.
*If you have an open wound, be sure to clean it well and keep it covered with a bandage that attaches to the skin on all sides. If you feel your child has a skin infection, please see your physician!
*Never share or borrow towels, razors, soap or any other personal items.

What Steps are the Westfield Public Schools taking?

*To ensure the health and safety of our students, the Westfield Public Schools are taking appropriate measures to disinfect all the facilities and school equipment. The Athletic Department is also advising school athletes to launder their personal athletic wear and sanitize personal athletic equipment.
*Parents have received notification of measures that are being taken in school and recommendations for home hygiene.
*The custodial staff has identified areas of higher risk and an aggressive plan for cleaning and sanitizing has been implemented.
*School nurses have been trained to identify signs and symptoms of the infection.
*Students are being instructed in proper hygiene and preventative measures in health classes.
*Coaches and trainers have been instructed to discuss good hygiene and prevention with their teams, and to make appropriate referrals to any students with signs of a skin infection.
*Families are urged to call their family physician if they have any additional questions about MRSA; see a physician immediately upon observing any new skin lesions. If the physician suspects MRSA, please notify the school nurse as soon as possible.

Fifth Disease is a childhood illness involving rash. The rash appears on the child's cheeks and looks as though the child has been slapped. It then spreads to the chest, abdomen, arms and legs and has a lacy appearance. It may be accompanied by fever and malaise a couple of days to one week prior to the appearance of the rash. Adults often develop joint pain with Fifth Disease. It is spread by respiratory droplets. The period of contagion lasts from 2 - 3 days up to a few weeks prior to the appearance of the rash. Once the rash develops and other symptoms are gone, the child is usually no longer contagious. Pregnant women who come in contact with Fifth Disease should call their health care providers. If your child has Fifth Disease, a note from the doctor is required for his/her return to school. Call your pediatrician for further information, or call me at 789-4478.

Lyme disease is caused by ticks carrying the Borellia bacterium. Check your child frequently during summer days spent outdoors; check the head, behind the ears, neck, armpits, groin, behind the knee. Wear protective light colored clothing with socks pulled over the pants leg. Avoid brush and stay on cleared paths while walking through grassy, wooded areas. If a tick is found, remove it promptly. A suggestion: soak a cotton ball in soap and apply it to the tick, wait a few minutes and remove it easily with a tweezers. Watch for symptoms of fatigue, aches and flu-like symptoms, also watch for a bull's eye rash. Call your pediatrician with any concerns.

If your child complains of a sore throat or ear pain without cold or allergy symptoms and/or accompanied by a stomach ache, it might be a strep infection. Strep infections MUST be treated with a full course of antibiotic therapy; make sure the entire prescription is taken as prescribed.