District urges staph prevention

Schalmont officials say student fell ill but has recovered

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
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— Schalmont district officials confirmed on Tuesday that a high school student athlete at the district was diagnosed with a drug-resistant staph infection last week.

In a letter sent to parents Tuesday, the district acknowledged the case of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (known as MRSA). It gave suggestions on how to help prevent the disease. The student, whose name was not released, was evaluated by a physician, treated for the disease and has since returned to school, according to the letter.

“In this case, the kid is healthy and back in school with a doctor’s permission,” Superintendent of Schools Valerie Kelsey said.

Kelsey said the student had been absent from school recently and there was little cause for alarm. However, she said the district is taking extra precautions to ensure that the Schalmont facilities are thoroughly cleaned.

Schalmont confirmed the case of MRSA amid an investigation by the state Department of Health into the death of a high school junior from the neighboring Mohanasen district last week. Spokeswoman Claire Pospisil said the state Health Department is still trying to determine if a staph infection led to the death of the student, 17-year-old Kyle Gagnon.

“I think it’s premature to make any assumptions at this point,” she said.

Gagnon, a varsity basketball player at Mohonasen, died at the Albany Medical Center Hospital on Saturday. The district indicated that he was hospitalized earlier in the week for treatment of pneumonia.

Health Department officials have indicated that there is no identifiable risk related to the Mohanasen student’s death. School administrators also indicated that they had taken preventive measures to ensure the safety of students.

Mohonasen officials said any updates about the investigation will come from the state.

Staph bacteria are some of the most common causes of skin infection in the United States and are a common cause of pneumonia, surgical wound infections and bloodstream infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Infections occur most frequently in hospitals and health care facilities among people who have weakened immune systems.

Glynnis Hunt, a spokeswoman with the Schenectady County Health Department, said she was unaware of the Schalmont case. However, she said districts finding single cases of MRSA aren’t required to report them.

“Based on [the state] review, we’re trying to determine if anything else needs to be done,” she said.

Kelsey said Schalmont is trying to raise awareness about staph infections, even though the case they’ve identified doesn’t appear to pose a threat.

“I think because of what happened in Mohonasen, we have to refresh people’s memories about this issue.”

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March 26, 2009
10:39 p.m.
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