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SCHOOLS: DISINFECTED

Kenneth Alexander disinfects a locker room at Walter Payton College Prep High School on Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, in Chicago.
Credit: Jerry Lai/AP Images
This October, a high school student in Moneta, Virginia, died from an infection of a deadly strain of bacteria. Since then, infections caused by the same superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), have been reported in schools across the country.

Most cases of MRSA are non-life-threatening skin infections, says Dr. Rachel Gorwitz, an epidemiologist who studies the spread of diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. But MRSA has developed ways of resisting many germ-killing antibiotics, making it difficult to cure. MRSA can cause a severe or even fatal infection if it spreads to other parts of a person's body.

Staph infections have always been common, says Gorwitz. But a growing concern over the drug-resistant strain has prompted schools to disclose new MRSA cases and take precautions to protect students. Some schools have closed while they are disinfected. But Gorwitz recommends an even simpler measure to stop staph: good personal hygiene. That can help prevent infections from occurring and spreading.

—Cody Crane