A total of 21 schools were shut down in northern America on Wednesday after a high school student died of a fatally bacterial infection.
The schools in Bedford County, Virginia, were closed to allow officials to conduct a thorough cleaning as a way to stop the staph, or "superbug," from spreading, said Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education.
The shutdown was ordered after a 17-year-old student, Ashton Bonds, a senior at Staunton River High School, died Monday after being diagnosed with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA, caused by the staph bacteria.
The teen complained of pain in his side and went to hospital on Oct. 4. He was sent home after doctors ruled out appendicitis, but was readmitted three days later to another hospital.
Bonds was diagnosed with MRSA last week when the bacteria had spread to his kidneys, liver, lungs and the muscles around his heart. He was about to undergo surgery to drain the infection from his lungs when doctors detected a inoperable blood clot near his heart.
There have been three reported MRSA outbreaks so far this year, said Robert Parker, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Health.
According to a research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday, more than 90,000 Americans get potentially deadly infections each year from MRSA, even more than deaths caused by AIDS.
Staph bacteria typically are found on the skin or in the nose. They can cause pimples or rashes but occasionally can also cause severe infections in the lungs, kidneys and other organs, said the first government report on overall estimate of MRSA.
In 2005, an estimated 19,000 Americans died from MRSA, about 85 percent of them were infected with the "superbug" in a hospital or health care facility but the infection is also found in the community, the report said.
In schools, places like locker rooms are more vulnerable to staph infections because of shared personal items like towels and athletic gear.
(Xinhua News Agency October 18, 2007)