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Officials urge good hygiene to combat 'superbug'

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

With reports of increased "superbug" cases, health officials are urging residents to practice good hygiene to stave off the bacterial infection.

Health officials say the so-called "superbug," methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, has recently resurfaced in higher frequency across Georgia and the United States.

"Our priorities are to work with health care providers to enhance awareness, diagnosis and treatment, to provide tools that teach patients how to limit spread of this infection, and to educate our citizens about how they can reduce their risk," said Rosanna Boyd, District Four epidemiologist.

MRSA is a type of staphylococcus, or "staph" bacterium that has developed resistance to methicillin, the antibiotic typically used to treat those with staph infections.

"MRSA can be a challenge to treat," said Paul Spearman, director of infectious disease at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, in a statement Monday.

"The organism is resistant to many common antibiotics, but can still be effectively treated, if it is recognized," Spearman said. "The best treatment is prevention, which simply requires good hygiene."

While MRSA infections occur mostly in those with weakened immune systems, the "community associated" strain of MRSA (CA-MRSA) infections can cause infections in people with healthy immune systems, too.

CA-MRSA usually causes skin infections, such as pimples, and can be contracted through skin-to-skin contact, cuts, cracks, or abrasions in the skin and poor hygiene, which increases one's chances of acquiring an infection.

The skin infections can occur anywhere, and are most commonly transmitted in schools, daycares, dormitories, military barracks, correctional facilities, and even within households.

Officials in Henry County said there have been no reported cases of the superbug, recently, while a spokesperson for the Clayton County Board of Health said there have been two recent cases in the county, but that both individuals were treated and are doing fine.

Jerrie Harris, a registered nurse at New Hope Elementary and Ola Middle schools, said she has not seen many illness so far this school year.

"Right now, thank goodness, we don't have anything more than a stomach ache," Harris said.

She says she expects some illnesses like cold and flu will come, as they usually do, with cooler weather - when people don't go outside as much and are in close quarters.

She said she advises parents and students at her schools to take preventive measures by following recommendations provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Hand washing is the biggest thing we have to fight staph infection," Harris said. "We're just reminding everybody to wash their hands."

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On the net:

Georgia Public Health Department: http://health.state.ga.us/mrsa/

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov