** Updated October 31, 2007 **
Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, and
Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum today urged students, families, and educators to
wash their hands thoroughly and frequently, since hand-washing can prevent the
spread of many infections, including Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a
microbe that is resistant to some common antibiotics.
Today’s announcement follows the tragic death of a
student at IS 211 in Brooklyn who was infected
with MRSA. There is no indication that any other students are at
“Staph is both preventable and treatable,” Dr.
Frieden said. “The best way to avoid infections is to wash hands thoroughly and
avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors. We are working with the
school system to distribute informational materials so that everyone is aware of
the disease and knows how to prevent it.”
“It’s a tragedy that one of our students died of
this infection,” Chancellor Klein said. “It reminds us how important it is to
wash our hands with soap and water, keep clean, and visit the doctor if we are
at all concerned about our health. We are working with principals, school
custodians, and parents to reduce the chances of further infection. I urge
everyone to be vigilant and to keep healthy.”
“It's a fact of life that kids can forget to wash
their hands and scrape their knees on the playground,” Public Advocate Gotbaum
said. “But parents and school officials can be super heroes in the fight against
the bug simply by reminding their children to wash their hands and cover cuts.
Together, New Yorkers can take the basic steps to protect children and help
prevent future tragedies.”
The Department of Education (DOE) and the Health
Department have distributed materials to schools highlighting strategies that
will help educators and students stay healthy and prevent the spread of MRSA.
DOE sent custodians a notice this week emphasizing the importance of keeping
plenty of soap available to students. DOE also urged custodians to notify school
officials and nurses if they have any concerns about sanitation in
MRSA spreads by direct skin-to-skin contact.
Less often, it can be spread by contact with items such as towels or sports
equipment that have come into contact with infected skin. The microbe, which is
common on skin surfaces, normally causes only lesions that will heal without
treatment. A Staph infection may look like a pimple or boil on the skin. The
lesion may be red, swollen, painful, or have pus. In more serious cases, the
infection may cause difficulty breathing, fever and excessive tiredness. If a
child develops these symptoms, a parent should contact a doctor. Though MRSA is
becoming more common, fatal cases in children are extremely rare.
The DOE and DOHMH released the following
recommendations for minimizing the spread of communicable infections such as
- Students, educators, and others should wash their
hands regularly with soap and water.
- Schools must ensure
that sufficient soap and paper towels are available in all
- Students should not share towels or
other similar personal items during sports or other activities. They should
also wipe down shared athletic equipment between users.
If parents have any questions or concerns, they
should call their principals, parent coordinators, or 311. Additional
information can be found at: http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/DYD/Health/default.htm.