School nurse Cathy Swedlund told the Las Vegas City Schools board that the district was seeing an increase in a staph infection called methicillin and has developed a prevention policy that the board is being asked to approve.
Swedlund called methicillin resistant staph aureus, or MRSA, a serious disease that could be life-threatening.
“We addressed many of the different areas that we thought would help in prevention,” Swedlund said. The nurse said most incidents of the infection happen in athletic settings, especially wrestling because of intense skin-to-skin contact.
Swedlund said open wounds should be covered and taped on all four sides when students are competing in any contact sport.
“We are proposing that any athletes with an open wound not wrestle until that wound is healed due to the incidence of infection,” Swedlund said.
Other recommendations included a districtwide hygiene campaign with a focus on washing hands — the easiest way to prevent infections from spreading. Swedlund also recommended a clean school environment and suggested that bus drivers clean and wash down school bus seats daily.
Swedlund said scientists believe any hard surface can harbor the virus for up to two months. “It’s a hardy little organism, so if we can keep areas clean we can prevent it.”
District wellness director Michell Aragon said the intention of the medical staff is not to create hysteria because the infection is something that can be prevented through good hygiene; however, drugs like penicillin are not able to kill MRSA, she said. “That’s why we worry about it because it’s a hard bacteria to kill.”
Robertson principal Richard Lopez told the board his wrestling coaches are aware of what the nurses are trying to prevent. He said medical personnel have visited with teachers and custodians regarding prevention.
“Rest assured that coaches are knowledgeable of the dangers of these kinds of bacteria and on a daily basis have a strict regimen where they disinfect the whole wrestling area,” Lopez said.
Lopez said before all wrestling matches, officials check out athletes from head to toe. He said in the sport, there are a lot of mat-burns, and scrapes, scratches and bruises.
“We need to be careful in saying you (an athlete) cannot participate; the referee and coaches that are knowledgeable should make that decision,” Lopez told the board.
Board members Philip Leger and Ramon “Swoops” Montao worried about athletes not showering after practice. Lopez noted that some students prefer to shower at home, but that every student should be required to shower after a physical education class or participating in any sport.
Montao said for several years, kids have gotten away with not having to shower or practice proper hygiene. He asked the administration for a big push to educate both students and parents about some of the real dangers connected to some of the drug resistant viruses that are spread by unsanitary conditions.