By Melanie Chupein, Co-Editor in Chief
Help us combat MRSA!!! Before signing in Please sanitize your hands by washing them with liquid hand gel found on the wall by waiting room door.
McDaniel College students signing into Student Health Services are left with little doubt about whether nationwide concerns about staph infections have reached the college community.
Warning signs and increased efforts to keep parts of the campus clean leave little doubt that concern is here. In fact, administrators have had an eye on staph infections for more than a year, according to Joan Lusby, Clinician and Certified Physician’s Assistant.
And since they have stepped up their efforts, staph infections have actually declined at McDaniel College.
“We had many more infections last year. This year we have seen a dramatic decrease because of the measures we put in place,” said Lusby.
Lusby suspects that the decrease from 70 cases of staph infections last year to only 10 cases this year is due to stronger awareness of proper hygiene and ways to prevent cross contamination.
“We were already putting in measures to combat MRSA before it hit the newspaper,” said Lusby.
Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged in Carroll Country, with reports of 13 staph infections in the public school system since the start of the academic term, according to the Carroll County Times.
“While most athletes may not realize it, staph is contained in everyone’s body and all it takes is a small trigger to activate the germ and infect a person with MRSA,” Carroll County Times also reported.
According to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “more than 90,000 people get potentially deadly infections each year from ‘superbug’ staph infections that are resistant to antibiotics.”
Colleges in the area join McDaniel’s efforts to keep students and other members of their college community informed.
“As with all health issues that concern our students, Carroll Community College and the Carroll County Health Department are working closely on this issue,” Faye Pappalardo, Ed.D., President of Carroll Community College, wrote in an email to the college community. “The College is following the guidelines given to them from the State and Local Health Department.”
She advised that everyone follow precautions in order to “be protective regarding your health and the health of your family” by washing hands frequently, not sharing personal items, showering daily, washing clothes and bedding, properly cleaning and covering wounds or cuts, not coming into contact with another person’s wounds, and reporting any suspicious skin lesions.
Freshman Ben Sapp is “not particularly afraid of” MRSA. Like Pappalardo, he emphasizes the importance of practicing good hygiene.
“As long as everyone keeps good hygiene for themselves, it won’t be a major problem,” Sapp said. “General cleanliness is polite and generally good manners.”
McDaniel College administrators have taken precautions at the college fitness center by having special units of Purell and treated towelettes to wipe down the equipment, according to Building Services Coordinator, Melvin Whelan.
There are also fresh towels provided that are washed regularly. The showers, toilets, and sinks are treated with the same chemical as in hospitals.
“Use a towelette and wipe your equipment off [and] wash your hands,” Whelan advised.
Lusby wants to remind students that staph lives in a portion of your nose, and as long as it stays there, no harm happens. However, if the staph finds its way into an open wound, an infection occurs. She likens the effect of MRSA to a urinary tract infection.
“Ecoli lives in the bowel. When it moves to the front [you get an] urinary tract infection,” Lusby said.
Lusby added that students should be aware of the consequences of some of their behaviors. Two trends, shaving genitals and body piercing, puncture the skin, leaving holes that are susceptible to infection.
“All this shaving takes away the protection of the hair. You open up the pores,” Lusby said. “God gave us the hair for a reason. It’s there to protect us.”
Maryann Nalevanko, office manager for Student Health Services, contracted a staph infection through a cut in her elbow that lasted for an entire month. During that time she had to see her doctor eight times. She was put on two different antibiotics.
“I can tell you it’s no fun,” Nalevanko said.
Nalevanko is not sure where she contracted MRSA but she has her suspicions.
“I’m assuming I got it here but you can get it anywhere,” Nalevanko said. “It’s invisible, and it doesn’t die.”
Additional reporting contributed by Michelle Menner.