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Five MRSA cases reported in county schools
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The Newton County School System has reported five cases of MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, within the schools.

This fall three students and two staff members were diagnosed with the skin infection. The infections were found at Middle Ridge Elementary, Palmer-Stone Elementary, Ficquett Elementary, West Newton Elementary and Alcovy High.

"Each person has received the appropriate treatment and has been medically cleared to return to school," said Sherri Viniard, public relations director for NCSS, "and is, in fact, already back at school."

Viniard said the schools where infections were found were thoroughly cleansed with a product that kills MRSA bacteria and custodians and school administrators attended a training session to ensure cleaning protocols are being met and disinfectant instructions are understood.

MRSA bacteria usually manifests itself on the skin in the form of pimples or boils. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report it is most commonly transmitted through skin to skin contact.

A doctor should be contacted if a sore grows larger, has increasing amounts of drainage or is accompanied by fever, chills or a rash.

To prevent an infection, pediatricians suggest entire families have flu shots because the virus weakens the immune system allowing bacteria to enter the body more easily.

The importance of hand washing should be reinforced to all students as well as emphasizing not sharing drinking glasses, tissues, combs, clothes, linens, razors and bar soap.

Parents also should thoroughly clean children's wounds and monitor them for any changes.

In recent weeks, MRSA infections have broken out in schools across the country.

In Georgia, a suburban Atlanta couple reported to the Associated Press their 7-week-old child died in August from an antibiotic-resistant staph infection.

Three students at Austin Road Middle School in Stockbridge, a student at Columbia High in DeKalb County and three cases in Fulton County were treated in October. Nine other cases of infection were previously reported in Henry County Schools this school year.

Another middle school in Wrightsville in central Georgia was cleaned after two students there were diagnosed.

Two students at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, two students at Osborne High School in Marietta and one student at Southside High School in Atlanta were also treated for MRSA infections in October.

The strain of bacteria has also been found at Augusta State University and in Dougherty County last month.

A 2006 "Journal of Infectious Diseases" report estimated 32 percent of the United States population is colonized with MRSA.

Vernon Goins, public relations information coordinator for the East Metro Health District, said these bacterial infections are common in hospitals and places where physical contact is made with others such as at schools. Most infections clear up without treatment by a physician but if symptoms persist, then medical attention is needed.

He said while the MRSA strain is resistant to some staph-fighting medications, it does respond to others. He added no preventative medicine exists for staph infections, only good hygiene and awareness.

Viniard said letters have been sent home to all parents about proper hygiene habits and not sharing personal materials.

"We sent informational letters home to parents because knowledge is the best prevention," Viniard said. "We need parents to help us reinforce what we are teaching the children at school about preventing the spread of germs and infections, whether it be MRSA, the flu or simply the common cold."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.