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Schools step up sanitation

By MARGO HORNER, The Mirror

As a result of recent near hysteria nationwide about MRSA, commonly called the “superbug,” the Federal Way School District is focusing on hygiene and sanitation procedures.

At a school board meeting Nov. 27, board members considered a new health education policy that would include a section on hygiene and disease prevention.

“We would like everybody in our community to know the school district is responding and is responsible in this area,” said Sue Overton, Federal Way School District health services coordinator.

“The school district is already pretty much doing everything that is required,” she added.

The most important step to prevent the spread of MRSA is frequent hand-washing, a practice that is already encouraged in schools, Overton said. Also, students with open wounds at school must keep them bandaged.

District custodial staff have increased routine cleanings of the health rooms in each school and they are working on a district-wide routine for cleaning surfaces such as doorknobs and desktops.

MRSA is not as serious a threat as many people fear, Overton said.

“We want to let people know that it is so easily treated and if we do what we’re supposed to do as far as hand-washing, etc., then it isn’t going to be spread,” she said.

There have been two confirmed cases of MRSA at Federal Way schools this year. One case was at Todd Beamer High School and the other was at an elementary school. In both cases, a letter was sent home to parents at the school and the names of the students were kept confidential.

Overton said it is likely there will be more cases of MRSA discovered in the coming months as people become more aware and get tested.

“I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of cases as we refer more of our students to health care providers for wounds,” she said. “We’re going to be more aware.”

If a student is discovered to have MRSA, the student will still be allowed to come to school but will not be allowed to participate in contact sports. Students participating in contact sports are at an added risk for MRSA, Overton said.

Because of the added risk, student athletes are not allowed to play if they have open wounds. Wrestling mats and other athletic equipment are cleaned and disinfected after each use.

Beginning this year as a response to the MRSA scare, benches in the locker rooms are covered by disposable paper to prevent contact with bare skin. Coaches are also extra vigilant about checking students for draining wounds. Athletes are encouraged to shower after participating in sports, wash uniforms after every use and not share personal equipment.

School board president Dave Larson was supportive of the hygiene education policy, although he didn’t want people to panic about MRSA.

“I think it’s good for us to be aware of these issues, but there’s all kinds of reasons other than MRSA to maintain good hygiene and cleanliness,” said Larson, who was voted by fellow members as board president last week.

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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