Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Superbug In Schools

Brooklyn middle-schooler Omar Rivera died last week after contracting the MRSA bacteria that is resistant to commonly used antibiotics, including methicillin, oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin.

Three other New York City public school children have contacted the drug-resistant superbug.

These children attend Public School 3 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, PS 101 in Bensonhurst, and PS 48 in Washington Heights respectively.

In addition, a female freshman at St. John's University has contracted the bacteria.

An estimated 94,360 people had a serious MRSA infection in 2005. 18,650 died. The bacteria is mostly contracted in hospitals and other medical settings but is becoming increasingly common in schools and other places not historically linked to MRSA bacterial infections.

Mayor Bloomberg, with his usual flair for the personal touch, told people fears about their children contracting the bacteria in public schools are "misplaced" and said that schools are doing everything to keep children safe:

"We do not think that this is an epidemic, and there's certainly no reason to keep your child at home," Bloomberg said.

I dunno about your school, but as far as I can tell, nothing special has been done at my school as a precaution.

The custodians, never the hardest working people in the building (although they are the hardest partying, as the scent of fresh alcohol that emanates from most of them attests), seem to be doing the usual stuff (like ducking out of the building for a quick 40-ouncer, hitting on the same three female staff members who seem to welcome the attention, snarling whenever you ask them to add soap or paper towels to the men's room) and not much else.

So perhaps Mayor Bloomberg is right to say that any fears you may have about you or your kids contracting the MRSA bacteria in schools are "misplaced," but my experience in the public school system has taught that a) few places are dirtier than a school building and b) few places are cleaned less than a school building.

Now I keep hand sanitizer in my classroom and I use it often during the day. I sanitize before I eat and I try not to touch my face or eyes while I'm working.

Since I see hundreds of people per day as part of my job, I just figure it's good policy to try and stay as clean as I can.

I do this because I don't want to catch a cold, not because I have great fears about contracting MRSA.

Nonetheless, the more I educate myself about MRSA and the more I listen to the mayor tell me about what schools are doing to protect students and teachers from contracting the bacteria, the more hand sanitizer I'm using.
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