The University of Colorado at Boulder campus has treated eight cases of Methicilin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), more commonly known as staph infection, so far this semester.
The university typically treats only six cases in an academic year, said Bronson Hilliard, a CU spokesperson.
The eight students have been treated and do not appear to have any side effects from treatment, he said. He stresses that he is not a doctor, and said there are no ways to prevent a staph infection.
He also said the cases are not active. The eighth case was reported last week sometime, Hilliard said.
“There are just a couple [cases that are active now],” he said. “I don’t have an exact number.”
Two of the eight students live in residence halls. The other six are off-campus residents.
“With a campus community of more than 35,000 (including about 5,300 students living on campus), this small number of cases does not represent a serious health threat to our campus community, and certainly is not an “outbreak,” said Chancellor G.P. “Bud” Peterson of the University of Colorado at Boulder in a letter to parents.
“Nobody should be alarmed,” Hilliard said. “This is not an epidemic; it isn’t even an outbreak. Physicians will tell you these infections come in clusters.”
According to information from CSU’s Hartshorn Health Center, from September 2006 to July 2007 the center diagnosed 18 MRSA. In August and September 2007 they diagnosed one MRSA.
According to the Centers for Disease Control Web site, “‘staph,’ are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Sometimes, staph can cause an infection. Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States.”
The Web site describes the skin rash as looking like “a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful or have pus or other drainage.”
Hilliard said if people have a red infected rash that they think may be a staph infection, they should see their physician to discuss a treatment regimine immediately.
“The rash looks like a spider bite,” Hilliard said. “It often develops a pussy sore. It is persistent. It doesn’t go away after a couple days, and they vary in size.”
Some staph bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, according to the CDC Web site. MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to antibiotics called beta-lactams. Beta-lactam antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin.
Claire Smith, a nurse practitioner at Hartshorn Health Center, said the skin infection can be contagious, but isn’t always.
“Sometimes you don’t need antibiotics,” Smith said. “Sometimes you don’t even need treatment, we just drain it. A lot of times you do [need antibiotics].”
The CU letter stated that “if you seek medical attention, note that medical experts strongly suspect that inappropriate anti-biotic treatment for viral illnesses is thought to have contributed to the problem.”
Smith, however, said Hartshorn treats the skin infection with antibiotics.
“We haven’t had any [cases] that we were at a loss of a drug to use,” Smith said.
Smith said at Hartshorn hand washing and gloves are pertinent in continuing health, and the center uses table paper so there is no real contact between people and their visits.
Preventative hygiene is something that people should do in the first place, Smith said.
Assistant news editor Nikki Cristello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.