By Melanie Snyder
Recent outbreaks of a number of diseases have spiked concern on both a national and local level. Confirmed cases of both Enterovirus D68 and MRSA in the state require public awareness regarding causes, symptoms and means of prevention.
The United States is currently experiencing a nationwide outbreak of EV-D68, associated with severe respiratory illness, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). It has confirmed a total of 500 diagnosed cases in 42 states, including New Jersey, from mid-August to October. In the U.S., people are most likely to become infected with enteroviruses in the summer and fall, according to the CDC.
Almost all of the CDC-confirmed cases this year of EV-D68 infection have been among children with asthma or a history of wheezing, according to the NJ Department of Health.
Said school nurse Ms. Carol Stavitski,“People with chronic illnesses and kids with asthma are those kids we are very concerned about.” She added, “We worry about the very young and old because [their] immune systems are slower. [Their] thymus glands produce less T-cells,” which are primarily responsible for fighting off diseases.
According to the NJDOH, symptoms are similar to those of influenza, including fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and aching. Severe symptoms may consist of wheezing and difficulty breathing. In general, the virus spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches a contaminated surface.
According to Stavitski, the most effective means of prevention is as simple as hand washing. Stavitski emphasizes using liquid soap for at least 20 seconds, and rinsing under the fingernails while washing hands.
In New Jersey, there are currently three reported cases of the enterovirus. However, said Stavitski at press time, no cases have been reported at WHS.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a strain of staph bacteria that has developed a resistance to antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections; it is typically referred to as a “superbug,” according to nlm.nih.gov.
MRSA can be a problem if it enters the body through open wounds. It is easily spread by contact, such as touching someone infected or a surface that has been exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms typically depend on where the infection is on the body. Most often, it can cause sores and boils on the skin, according to webmd.com.
MRSA skin infections have been identified in populations that share close quarters or have skin-to-skin contact. Examples of community-associated MRSA are team athletes, military recruits and prison inmates, according to webmd.com.
Said Stavitski, the two confirmed MRSA cases that have appeared in WHS, “have been immediately recognized and treated.”
Upon confirming cases, locker rooms in both the school and the field house have been wiped clean and disinfected, as have both the athletic trainer rooms, according to Athletic Director Ms. Sandra Mamary.
The most effective means of preventing spread of the disease is by isolating infected persons, keeping wounds clean and covered and avoiding sharing personal items, according to nlm.nih.gov.