Local News

Staph Infection Popping Up Across North Carolina

Posted October 19, 2007

— It's a common bacteria found on millions of people, but a resistant form of staph infection called MRSA has been popping up across North Carolina.

It is blamed in the death of a Virginia teenager.

A handful of cases were confirmed in Buncombe, Mecklenburg, Forsyth, Guilford, Orange, Northampton, Cumberland, Robeson and Duplin counties. State health officials stressed that the cases do not constitute an outbreak, however.

The most recent MRSA case was detected in Northampton County at Willis Hare Elementary School in Pendleton. Officials declined to identify whether it was a student or a staff member who was infected.

The school district was following protocols established by the state Division of Public Health to contain the infection, officials said. Hand sanitizers were provided in classrooms, and an extra janitor was assigned to the school to provide additional cleaning in the cafeteria and other common areas.

Letters were sent to the parents of the students in the elementary school, and an automated telephone message was sent Thursday night to the parents and school staff. No schools were expected to close because of the infection, officials said.

Another case of MRSA was also confirmed in a student-athlete at Purnell Swett High School in Robeson County. School officials sent out a letter Friday to parents explaining the situation. They also cleaned the locker room and areas where students might have been exposed.

WRAL contacted school districts across the viewing area, and all were taking extra precautions to make sure campuses were clean. They've also informed students and staff about ways to protect themselves.

Cumberland County was handling five cases of MRSA. In the past three weeks, five inmates at the local jail were infected. Two remain at the facility, and three were transported to a hospital for treatment. The detention center was conducting a staph-infection-awareness class for all employees

Hospitals are also a common place for the MRSA bacteria. Studies show more than 126,000 hospitalized patients are infected each year. As of Friday, UNC Hospitals said 55 percent of its patients with skin infections had MRSA.

The germ has been called a Super Bug because of its resilience. Numbers on how widespread it is in North Carolina were hard to come by because doctors and hospitals do not have to report cases to the state.

Also, it can often be confused with other infections. One Orange County man quickly found out this was something different, however.

Monroe Thompson, an electrician in Hillsborough, was at work when he noticed the red, tender bump on his hand about five months ago.

“First, I thought it was a spider bite. That’s what all the people told me. ‘You got a spider bite. You got a spider bite,’” he said.

The bump looked like a large boil or pimple.

“And it kept getting worse and worse and worse, and that’s when I figure I better do something,” Thompson said.

He checked into an emergency room when he had a fever of 104, and he had to stay several days. Doctors found he had MRSA.

“I kind of felt like I was coming down with the flu when I had the fever,” he said.

Thompson was given antibiotics, which he said helped clear it up in a couple of weeks. He said his doctor suggested that he pour a bottle cap full of Chlorox in his bathwater to kill germs. Thompson, who still wears a scar on his hand, said he has no idea where he got it.

Hospitals are a common source, but it could be anywhere.

“It can occur among sports teams, close contact, school, military recruits – anywhere there are crowds and people have close contact,” said Dr. David Weber, a physician at UNC Hospitals.

Weber said most patients admitted for staph infections have what's known as community-associated MRSA. It's acquired by otherwise healthy people who are not infected at hospitals.

“This has dramatically increased over the last two or three years compared to five or 10 years ago,” Weber said.

Linda Shambley, also of Hillsborough, said she has had at least six staph infections since July and thinks she might have gotten them from a hospital stay. Her doctor told her it was not MRSA, but now she's taking extra precautions.

“Now I’m even scared to to go in the public bathroom,” Shambley said.

Around her home, she tries to keep everything as clean as possible.

“As soon as I come in, I go and wash my hands with anti-bacterial soap, because I don’t want to catch this stuff again.”


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  • blondchk4 Oct 21, 2007

    LOL, ahh-fooie!

    But yeah, the best thing people can do to prevent the spread of this, or of LOTS of communicable diseases, is to wash their hands! Plain old soap and water does the trick better than anything, and you need to build up a good lather and scrub well for at least 15 seconds....which is a lot longer than most of us actually scrub. Put your hands together right now and pretend you're washing them while you count to 15....much longer than you thought, wasn't it?

  • ahh-fooie.... Oct 21, 2007

    It's water shortage people can't wash their hands!

  • Orange RN Oct 21, 2007

    MRSA refers specifically to one group of Staphylococcus - methicillin-resistant Staph. aureus. Methicillin is one kind of antibiotic.

    There ARE others kinds of Staph infections. Most are not antibiotic resistant, but resistant infections are increasingly detected among people in the US.

  • eric52272 Oct 21, 2007

    why do people get excited when you suggest stopping ILLEGAL immigration?...illegal means it is against the law...what if we say stop illegal murder, illegal drug dealing...etc....a person is not prejudice or bigoted because they want illegal activity to cease. When a person comes into the country illegally, they side step all of the medical checks and immunization requirements...this is a health hazard!!! and can lead to new health crisis and "old" diseases showing up again. Please quit fooling yourselves into thinking your "enlightned" or educated because you don't think harshly of illegal immigration...actually your view is the stupid and backward one.

  • gratefultoGOD Oct 21, 2007

    Comments from viewers give more information and are more informative than WRAL story.

  • BlowupDollWithChatAmbitions Oct 21, 2007

    I am curious about something.....is MRSA the name considered for all staph infections or are there others? I had a staph infection of the throat many years ago and I remember it kicking my behind.

  • clickclackity2 Oct 20, 2007

    No, MRSA is not new. But, like some other sicknesses, most people only know about it when themselves or someone they are close to becomes infected with it. The media hype is actually a good thing. However, you can't rely on the media to give a 10 page paper to educate the public. People should learn to educate themselves. There are many reputable websites with detailed information on MRSA and many other ailments. Even if it's something I've heard of, I always research further and don't just rely on the doctors diagnoses and treatment.

  • bbad238 Oct 20, 2007

    You may not have been affected West Nile or SARS, but MRSA is much more common and it should be taken seriously! I speak from personal experience, MRSA will bring you to your knees! There are many lingering effects once you have it. Even after the medicine is done, it can hang around.

  • NC to GA Oct 20, 2007

    This problem is not just happening in North Carolina... We are experiencing and hearing the same news here in Atlanta.

  • blondton13 Oct 20, 2007

    Such ignorant comments by many about this subject.

    Immigration has NOTHING to do with the recent increase in antiobiotic-resistant infections. Frequent use of antibiotics, overuse of "antibacterial" concoctions and people not completing their antibiotic regimen has all lead to this.

    It's called EVOLUTION. The bacteria are evolving to survive. Bacteria and viruses reproduce quickly and also mutate often. When these mutations favor reproduction, the new strain is now stronger and more resistant to outside factors, namely, the antibiotics/anti-virals we use in an attempt to get rid of them.

    It is a very important issue, but I wish WRAL would talk to a microbiologist or someone from the CDC so the reporting would dispell the myths that some uneducated individuals are trying to spread.