Clarkstown School District Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton confirmed this morning that one case of an MRSA infection had been reported to the district last Thursday. He said parents of a Strawtown Elementary School student notified the district that the child had tested positive for an MRSA infection and was being treated. Dr. Morton said that day the West Nyack school’s hallways, railings and the child’s classrooms were disinfected and all parents received a letter about the situation.
The superintendent said the steps taken on Thursday, Oct. 11 followed recommendations issued by New York State, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Rockland BOCES Health & Safety Department for dealing with MRSA. Over the weekend, he said the district took the additional precaution of disinfecting the entire school from top to bottom – the cafeteria, gym, sports equipment and classrooms.
According to the CDC, MRSA or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is a type of staph bacteria. The CDC website states, “In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections.”
The CDC notes between 25 percent and 30 percent of the population carries the MRSA bacteria but do not have any signs or symptoms of infection. The state health department web site explains the average school child does not have an increased risk of a MRSA infection.
Last Friday, District Health Coordinator Sue Sherlock and Building & Grounds Central Administrator Anthony Valenti met with Strawtown teachers.
“The teachers were concerned the whole school should be done,” Dr. Morton said.
The BOCES Health & Safety Department determined all the proper procedures had been followed for cleaning the school and declared the school was safe.
Strawtown Principal Deidra O’Connor is holding a previously scheduled Parents Tea this morning and Dr. Morton expects the MRSA case will be the major topic discussed. He is attending the tea along with Sherlock and Valenti to address parents’ concerns.
“The parents notified us immediately of what going on,” he said. “We were informed by the child’s parents that this was picked up outside the school.”
Dr. Morton said the student was tested in the hospital for the infection. He said there was no wound or any oozing and they believe it is an isolated case involving one child. He declined to release the child’s grade level.
“There is no mass infection,” he said. “There is no school infection that we know of.”
In addition to the letter that went out last Thursday, a second letter was sent out today explaining what was done and what procedure was followed. Dr. Morton said a third message is likely after the tea.
Dr. Morton, who said he had previously dealt with a MRSA outbreak in a different district, said he directed Assistant Superintendent John LaNave to develop protocols for the Clarkstown district to follow for possible similar events in the future.
The CDC states, “The key to preventing MRSA infections is for everyone to practice good hygiene.”
Among the recommendations are washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub and keeping cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed. People should avoid contact with other’s wounds or bandages and avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors. MRSA infections are most commonly found in healthcare settings or athletic team environments.