In October, state health officials assured parents that methcillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), often referred to as "staph" or the "superbug," is unlikely to affect their children at school because the majority of infections occur in health care settings. But why, then, is there such a rising fuss on the subject in school settings? "For years and years people have had staph infections," said Nancy Dudenhoefer, Kyrene School District community relations manager. "Have we had anything we've had to do anything about yet? No." According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Staphylococcus aureus is a bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. The bacteria can sometimes cause an infection, but most are minor skin infections and can be treated without antibiotics. However, bacteria can also cause serious infections such as surgical wound infections or pneumonia. Recent concern has been focused on MRSA, a staph infection resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin and cephalexin. Recently, the Chandler Unified School District reported a Perry High School student and a Basha Elementary School teacher were treated for MRSA. "We do not currently have any cases of MRSA (in the Kyrene School District)," Dudenhoefer said. Cases of MRSA found outside hospital settings (in schools, prisons and athletic teams) are referred to as Community-Associated MRSA. Infections appear as pimples, boils, and "spider bites," and occur in otherwise healthy people. On Oct. 26, KSD Superintendent David Schauer sent out a letter to parents to inform them of the issue and encourage children to practice good hygiene. "Prior to sending the letter to our parents, we reinforced our existing prevention practices with all staff," Dudenhoefer said. "We also double-checked to be sure our cleaning products and practices were effective against MRSA, and we asked our nurses to attend coaches meetings at the middle schools." Corinne Frayer can be reached at (480) 898-7917 or

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