Area schools trying to defuse fears of 'superbug'


School officials are urging calm in the face of growing anxiety over a bacteria resistant to many antibiotics, but at the same time they are emphasizing the importance of precautions after several local cases have been diagnosed.

Toledo Public Schools reported this week that two female students - one from Rosa Parks Elementary and the other from Leverette Middle School - had confirmed cases of MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

"They were reported Monday, a letter went out to parents, and both buildings were thoroughly cleaned to be disinfected," said Patty Mazur, district spokesman.

Ms. Mazur said all the district's school buildings have been reinforcing the importance of good hygiene to combat the MRSA "superbug."

Jodi Hurley said her son, a Maumee High School student who also attends Penta Career Center, is in serious condition in Toledo Hospital with MRSA.

"Right now, he is on an antibiotic cocktail, and it's pretty serious because he has it on his mouth," Ms. Hurley said.

She was pleased that the Maumee school system sent letters home to other parents to inform them, but disappointed that Penta has not done the same.

Jeffrey Kurtz, Penta high school director, said school officials are investigating and will make a decision today if they will inform parents of the school's 1,200 students.

Dr. David Grossman, commissioner of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, said there has been increased attention and anxiety because the infection has been contracted more regularly outside of hospitals - once the primary site for staph infections.

He said the safeguards are the same as for the flu or any infection: wash your hands, keep wounds covered, and avoid sharing personal items.

Last month, a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that MRSA infections in hospitals and nursing homes may be twice as common as previously thought. An estimated 18,650 patients nationwide died from MRSA in 2005, the study said.

One Elida High School football player was treated for what turned out to be MRSA after a trainer noticed a red mark on his back last week.

Several other schools in the Toledo region have had reported cases of staph infections recently.

Keith Thorbahn, principal of Oak Harbor High School, said a letter was sent home to district parents recently about a confirmed staph infection, but he was unsure if it involved the drug-resistant bacteria.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: or 419-724-6171.