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Two on-campus students at UF diagnosed with MRSA



GAINESVILLE — Two on-campus students at the University of Florida have contracted MRSA, university officials confirmed Monday.

Both students live in the apartment-style Beaty Towers, which house 786 students, predominantly freshmen and sophomores.

The first student, a Beaty East resident, was diagnosed Sept. 14, said UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes. Students in the residence hall were alerted to the staph infection in Sept. 15 email from housing director Lisa Diekow. The second case, afflicting a Beaty West resident, prompted a similar email there.

The university is working with the Alachua County Health Department and the student healthcare center to understand the origins of the two cases, Sikes said.

“We began that investigation last week,” Sikes said Monday. “They are taking the appropriate steps. Whether we have nipped it in the bud remains to be seen.”

The email to students shared preventative tips, including frequent hand-washing, as staph infections are often spread through hand contact. Students were also advised to cover any cuts with a bandage and to avoid sharing things like razors and towels.

Housing staff “thoroughly cleaned all common classroom and bathroom areas; the Beaty Stairwells; the resident’s apartment; and other areas where this type of infection might spread such as bathrooms, kitchens and common areas,” Diekow wrote in the first email. She noted that housing staff use a disinfectant cleaner that protects against pathogens, including MRSA.

Students were encouraged to tell their families about the infection.

MRSA — methicillin‐resistant Staphylococcus aureus — does not respond to first-line antibiotics that typically treat staph infections, according to UF Health. Commonly spread by touching, the staph germ can enter the body and spread within.

People with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable, but experts stress that healthy people can contract MRSA as well. Athletes who share towels, for instance, can spread the infection.

People with MRSA skin infections develop painful, swollen areas on the skin that look like boils. Much more severe cases can result in chest pain, fatigue, fever and even death. If the infection has not spread beyond the skin, health care providers can drain the infection to treat it.

Florida State University recently saw an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease. More than a dozen students contracted the viral illness, prompting event cancellations and widespread sanitation efforts.  

“These kinds of diseases are not uncommon,” Sikes said. “It’s very common to spread the flu and other kinds of infectious diseases in residence halls.”

The student healthcare center has determined that the cases appear to be unrelated, said Sharon Blansett, associate director of housing.

[Last modified: Monday, September 19, 2016 5:50pm]


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