Some Wabash Valley schools have stepped up their cleaning procedures to combat a bacteria resistant to various antibiotics.

Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus or MRSA is a type of Staph aureus bacteria that is more difficult to treat than other infections because of its resistance to many antibiotics.

There have been two confirmed cases of MRSA in Edgar County, Ill., according to Eddie McFarland, Edgar County Public Health administrator.

“This is the first activity we’ve seen in quite some time for several years or better,” he said. There were three suspected cases, but only two were confirmed to be MRSA.

One of those cases was reported Nov. 9 at Chrisman Elementary School, said Trisha Brinkley, Chrisman School District nurse. The student’s parents notified the school after they got the news from their physician.

It is unclear where the second confirmed case was, but McFarland said both children have since returned to school.

Brinkley said if a student has a suspicious skin infection, he or she is sent home and cannot return without a doctor’s note.

Children aren’t required to stay out of school unless the drainage from the infected wound is uncontainable. The infection site must remain covered, she said.

MRSA is not a reportable disease, so doctors and health departments do not have to notify the schools if and when a case is confirmed, Brinkley said.

Prior to the confirmed case, Brinkley said the school was already taking proactive measures against the bacteria such as changing the cleaning products the school uses and installing hand sanitizers in every room.

Individual towels also are provided to the athletes and their water bottles are labeled. Basketballs, desk tops and any other area that has frequent contact with the students are also cleaned on a daily basis, she said.

Letters were sent home notifying parents about the incident.

“We want to do everything we can to protect their children and to keep them safe,” Brinkley said, “so we wanted them to be aware that that was going on because this is something new to our district.”

The letters are a courtesy not all schools extend to parents.

Though there have been no known cases in the Vigo County School Corp. within the last two weeks, Risk Manager Brendan Kearns said they would probably not send a letter out to parents if they did have a confirmed case.

Per guidelines of the Department of Education, Kearns said there isn’t a need to notify everyone.

“The only people that will know are those that have a vested interest,” he said. “Your health aide, maybe the principal, if there’s a teacher, we may need to let them know just so that way that particular desk is kept clean and stuff like that …”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, it’s not necessary to inform an entire school community over one infection and the school nurse or physician should determine who, if anyone, should be notified.

Still, existing cleaning programs have been enhanced, and school officials have met with athletic staff and all principals to go over procedures, Kearns said.

“A person can be infected with MRSA and be in a school,” Kearns said. “As long as they take certain precautions, everything’s going to be just fine, and one of those precautions is keeping the wound covered.”

Most exposures occur when students share clothing, mostly in athletics, he said. Now, some procedures include enhanced cleaning of all the locker rooms and football pads are sanitized after practices.

“We are taking precautionary measures and we respect everybody’s privacy,” Kearns said, “but we’re following guidelines from the Department of Education and we’ve been working with the local health department. They’ve been a great resource.”

Crystal Garcia can be reached at (812) 231-4271 or

Prevention Tips

MRSA is usually transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with shared items or surfaces that have come in contact with someone else’s infection.

Protection and prevention tips from MRSA:

• Cover infections

• If you have an infection, clean and disinfect surfaces that may have come in contact with the infection.

• Clean surfaces with detergent-based cleaners

• Practice good hygiene

• Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, razors and deodorant

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