ICS Magazine

Custodians do a little 'extra' cleaning in wake of reported case of staph infection

November 13, 2007

Nov. 11 – (Chico Enterprise Record) -- Eight custodians spent Saturday morning soaking hard surfaces with disinfectant at Paradise High School following a reported case of a staph "superbug" infection.

The infection is caused by methicillin-resistant staphylococucs aureus (MRSA), a germ that has been deemed in media reports as a "superbug" because of its resistance to traditional antibiotics.

Officials at the school decided to pay for the extra hours of cleaning as a precaution and to ease the minds of those who operate within the walls of the building, said Chris Bolshazy, interim head custodian at Paradise High School.

"We take it seriously, but it's not a real serious health issue right now," he said. "I think the flu and cold season affects us more than this one case of MRSA."

Many of the custodians were contracted from other schools, including Paradise Elementary, Paradise Intermediate, Ponderosa and Pine Ridge schools.

Because the infection is spread through skin contact, especially through open wounds, hard surfaces shared by multiple people were the biggest cleaning targets. Custodians worked for four hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. disinfecting classrooms, offices, common areas and bathrooms, including the desks, light switches, pencil sharpeners, white boards, computer keyboards, drinking fountains, doorknobs and sinks inside them. Bolshazy said most of the cleaning was what would be considered the school's daily routine, but "a little extra effort" would be put into Saturday's labor.

"I think this will be adequate to take care of the issue," he said.

No deep cleaning of carpet, walls or light fixtures was planned.

Many health professionals have expressed surprise for the recent media attention to MRSA, which has been resistant to methicillin for years.

In a Nov. 3 article in the Enterprise-Record, Dr. Mark Lundberg, Butte County's health officer, said the infection has been incorrectly labeled as a superbug, which is typically a strain of bacteria that does not react to treatment. Several treatment options still exist for MRSA, he said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the simplest measure of prevention is to keep hands clean and cover open wounds with a bandage until healed.

The CDC also reports that it is generally not necessary to close a school to disinfect it when a case of MRSA is discovered, as was the case with a school in Virginia when students rallied for closure after their 17-year-old classmate was killed following complications stemming from an MRSA infection.

Newspapers in the area reported 20 other school closings in the county in the following days.

Such closures seem to be helpful only in easing the minds of parents, students and staff since the infection could easily be brought back into the school by any carrier. In his 28 years as a custodian - 23 working at Paradise High School - Bolshazy said he had never seen a Saturday cleaning in response to a health concern.

The cleaning is meant to provide a "comfort zone" to staff and students when they return to school Tuesday, following the Veterans Day holiday, Bolshazy said.