BC3 MRSA outbreak, closing spurs conversation on how to avoid the infection

Published by adviser, Author: Haley Barnes - News Editor, Date: March 31, 2016
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Butler County Community College (BC3) officials reopened campus on Thursday after a confirmed case of Community Acquired Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (CA MRSA) in BC3’s field house closed the campus for two days.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), MRSA is a skin infection that appears to look like a spider bite that is red, swollen, painful, warm to the touch and full of pus. Director of the Health Center, Kristina Benkeser, explained that MRSA can only be spread through skin to skin contact.

Benkeser explained that two percent of the population carries CA MRSA in their nose and when those who carry the infection touch the inside of their nose and then touch a non-human surface, the infection can spread to a non-carrier. She said that MRSA is most commonly found on athletic gear and workout equipment. The MRSA case at BC3 was found in the field house on the main campus.

Benkeser explained that the problem with MRSA is that it affects the skin and MRSA is known to be resistant to several antibiotics.

“The skin is the most vital organ because it keeps all of our organs safe,” she said.

If a student comes to the Health Center, Benkeser said the student would often describe their symptoms as wound that looks like a spider bite and it would most likely be on the arms or legs, as those are areas on the body that are exposed during a workout. The nurse would then perform a skin culture to determine if the wound is MRSA or not.

“Often we will begin treatment with CDC- recommended drugs and we will wait for the culture to come back,” Benkeser explained.

Benkeser said that MRSA prevention is very easy, but that outbreaks are most likely to happen in prisons, daycares and on college campuses. The most effective practices to avoid the infection are routine hand washing and to not share personal items.

“They are called personal items for a reason,” she said.

As MRSA is only spread through skin to skin contact, Benkeser said that an infected student would still be able to attend classes, but that the student would have all wounds bandaged.

“If you have a gooey, seeping wound, you don’t leave it open to the air,” she said.

She said MRSA can be spread through sexual activity, so she recommends that students with open wounds use bandages and protect all wounds before engaging in sexual activity.

If a MRSA outbreak were to happen on SRU’s campus, Benkseser noted that there would not be a closing of the university, as there are protocols in place to protect the students while still allowing daily activities. Protocol would call  for a deep cleansing of the infected area on campus, collaboration with the department of where the infection was found, treatment of those infected and collaboration with the office of health promotion and public relations to email students information about MRSA.

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