Health Center: 'superbug' infection not a major threat

Recently, a strain of bacteria called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA, has been the focus of media attention due to its resistance to certain antibiotics and the large number of infections in hospitals that result in death.

Because of the nature of the bacteria, commonly known as "staph," people who frequent schools, hospitals or other areas with large concentrations of people, like Geneseo, are at an increased risk.

According to an Oct. 17 Associated Press article, a government study released on Oct. 16 estimated that 90,000 Americans get potentially fatal infections from the staph "superbug" each year, an incidence rate of 32 invasive infections per 100,000 people. The Journal of the American Medical Association, which published the study, called that number "astounding."

Dr. Steven Radi, medical director of the Lauderdale Health and Counseling Center, said that MRSA was previously "only found in hospitals, infecting patients with compromised health. The big change is that we are now seeing it in the community, where young, healthy people can get it."

Generally, MRSA appears as a mild skin infection, and is usually treated with antibiotics.

Despite the media frenzy surrounding the virus, it is not the epidemic that some have perceived it to be. "This type of bacteria has been around for years," explained Radi. "[The healthcare community] goes through periods of the year in which certain things become a problem."

Radi mentioned that typically, several students each year are diagnosed with MRSA at the Health Center with no serious complications. "We look for it like any other problematic virus," he said.

Many students on campus are aware of the potentially deadly virus, but remain unconcerned about infection. "I didn't know there was anything to be worried about," said sophomore Charlotte Abram.

Sophomore Neil Swanson voiced a similar opinion. "It's no more of a concern than anything else," he said.

Radi explained that the Health Center is planning to release information about MRSA to the community as a response to the recent media attention.

"The virus is very easy to kill on surfaces," he said, noting that the products used by the college cleaning staff are effective in killing the bacteria that cause infection. Regular hand washing and use of disinfectants are the most effective preventative measures.

"Hand washing is the single most important way to reduce the chance of infection," said Radi. Radi recommends that students concerned about the infection contact Health Services for an appointment.