First Posted: 1/15/2009
School officials warn parents after 2 cases confirmed
PEMBROKE - The mother of a Pembroke Middle School student says her daughter has the drug-resistant staph infection that killed a 17-year Virginia student and has the nation on edge.
Iola Woodell said doctors at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center confirmed Oct. 5 that her 12-year-old daughter Krystin has methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus - better known as MRSA.
Woodell said the infection caused her daughter's heart to double in size. Fluid had to be drained from around her heart and lungs. Krystin is being treated at Duke University Medical Center.
“This is a bad, bad bug,” Woodell said. “It increased her heart rate and caused a lot of fluid build-up. I don't know where she got it.”
Robeson County school officials have confirmed another case involving a student athlete at Purnell Swett High School.
Another student at Pembroke Middle School also is believed to have the infection, though it has yet to be confirmed. All three students in the local cases participate in athletics.
Staph is a type of bacteria. It may cause skin infections that look like pimples or boils. It is spread by skin-to-skin contact, and people with cuts are must vulnerable.
Skin infections caused by staph may be red, swollen, painful, and have pus or other drainage. MRSA is resistant to certain antibiotics, making it harder to treat. Common places were the infection is spread are in health-care settings, and crowded conditions such as locker rooms.
Schools spokesman Al Kahn said letters went home to parents on Friday warning them of the symptoms and advising them what to do if they suspect their child is infected. Athletes who have open cuts will not be allowed to play until the wounds heal.
Kahn said school officials met Friday morning to discuss the situation. Kahn said school officials haven't been able to determine how the Purnell Swett student became infected.
“We are trying to ascertain all the details,” Kahn said.
Kahn said officials at Swett sanitized the locker room, sports equipment and other areas where students may be exposed.
Swett Principal Antonio Wilkins said he has not spoken with the student's parents.
“We have no documentation that the student came in contact with the infection here at school,” Wilkins said. “We are following the normal sanitary procedures as we have in the past. We clean all the equipment, the field house and bathrooms to ensure things like this don't occur.”
Dale Gifford, assistant director of Nursing for Infection Control at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, said the hospital averages 30 cases of staph infection per month. The hospital has been monitoring MRSA since 1995 when hospitals in the U.S. began reporting such cases.
“The medical center has seen the same rise in the number of cases in our community as other communities in (North Carolina) and the U.S.,” Gifford said.
Iola Woodell said her daughter became ill on Oct. 1 when what looked like an abscess was found on the back of her neck.
She was taken to Pembroke Pediatrics and treated for a sinus infection. The infection became worse over the next few days and she ended up at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
“An X-ray found fluid build-up around her heart,” Woodell said. “The doctors said it went straight to her blood stream.”
Krystin was transferred to Duke on Oct. 9. She underwent surgery two days later to drain the fluid around her heart.
“She is feeling good now, but she was upset earlier because we thought we were going home yesterday,” Woodell said.
“I've been telling all my friends to check their children. I want to challenge the school board to educate our parents and students before any other student gets sick,” she said.
Melissa Seals, a cousin of Krystin, said she's upset that the school system didn't react any sooner in educating parents about the threat.
“Krystin has been lying in a hospital bed for two weeks,” Seals said. “Why are they waiting so long? The teacher had not said anything about it to the students. The day they found out, school officials should have started talking to teachers and expressing the importance of hand washing.”