MRSA scare hits Franklin post office

Published 11:55 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2008

FRANKLIN — An employee of the city’s post office was reportedly sent home Monday, and was later diagnosed with having Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA.

Sources, including a Postal Service worker, told The Tidewater News that a female employee of the post office reported to work on Monday but was sent home early. The woman was later diagnosed with MRSA and put on antibiotics, the sources said.

In a written statement, spokeswoman Cathy Boulé said the Postal Service’s medical unit had “not officially seen any medical information, nor have we been officially contacted as an agency by health officials with a diagnosis of MRSA for an employee in that area.”

Dr. Lisa McCoy, a preventive medicine and public health specialist with the Western Tidewater Health District of the Virginia Department of Health in Suffolk, said Staphylococcus Aureus, the S and the A in MRSA, is a common bacterium.

“They’re bacteria that are on all of our skin,” McCoy said. “These aren’t new infections, but there are certain types of these bacteria that have grown resistant to some of the antibiotics that we normally use to kill them. It’s not that there are no antibiotics that can kill them, there definitely are, it’s just we need to customize it.”

Asked how MRSA spreads, McCoy said “it can basically be passed from person to person through direct skin to skin contact, either through your hands, or touching items that someone else has used. The best way to prevent the spread of these bacteria is really just frequent hand washing. If a person does have a wound or a rash that has become infected, as long as they take care to keep that wound clean and covered, there’s really no danger to anyone else.”

McCoy said cleaning surfaces that may have come in contact by an infected person is an important step in preventing MRSA from spreading.

“Basically cleaning, cleaning, cleaning,” McCoy said. “You don’t really need any special cleaning solution – even Clorox will get rid of this staph.”

Boulé wrote that “as a precaution, the (Franklin) Postmaster has sanitized the facility and the employees have been given information and a safety talk regarding MRSA and staph infection. The information and safety talk addressed symptoms, treatment and prevention.”

McCoy said about 20 percent of people at any given time are probably carrying SA bacteria on their skin, and that probably another 1 percent are carrying MRSA.

“It’s around,” McCoy said. “We see it.”