Staph Infections Plague Schools

A county in southern Virginia closed its 21 schools on Wednesday for cleaning in an effort to prevent the spread of a bacterial infection that killed a 17-year-old student.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

Concerns about drug-resistant staph infections continues with news of more school closings and warnings from the CDC.

BURBANK: All 21 schools in Bedford County, Virginia, shut down yesterday after a student died from a staph infection that spread to his kidney, liver, lungs and the muscles around his heart. The schools were closed to allow time for a thorough cleaning. They're expected to re-open today.

STEWART: Now in Tennessee, a 5-year-old girl is hospitalized in critical condition with the infection. Two more high school students in Connecticut, two in Illinois and one in Michigan have also contracted the infection known as - all right, you might have to help me with this, Luke - Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

BURBANK: That was perfect.

STEWART: Now those are just some of the cases making into the news as people around the country process a big study released by the Centers for Disease Control.

BURBANK: Yeah. That study came out this week. They found that in 2005, they estimate anyway nearly 19,000 people may have died after contracting MRSA infection. That number, which is extrapolated from a smaller study sample, would mean that more people died of the virulent staph infection than die of HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, emphysema or homicide each year.

STEWART: MRSA, the strain of staph bacteria that cannot be treated with standard antibiotics but does respond to other drugs, it spreads through direct contact with an infected person or by sharing an item with that person, like a towel or even sports equipment.

BURBANK: While hospitals continue to be the place where these infections are most prevalent, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Public Health told the press that MRSA has moved beyond health care facilities. She also explained what kinds of cuts could indicate something more serious.

Unidentified Woman #3: Many times, they are mistaken for a spider bite. In other words, they can look like a pimple or a pustule or a wound that just doesn't seem to heal.

STEWART: We're going to learn more about this issue in just a bit when we talk to Vance Fowler, an associate professor of infectious diseases from Duke Medical Center.

BURBANK: And that is today's BPP Big Story. Now here's Rachel Martin with the news.

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