The number of confirmed student cases of the bacterial infection known as MRSA at Rocky Point High School is now up to four, Superintendent Michael F. Ring said Friday in a message on the district's website.
The most recent student participates in the same sport as three others whose cases were reported in December and earlier this week, he said. But this latest case "is not believed to be sports or school related as it resulted from an accident that occurred off of school property over a month ago. During this period of time, while the student was recovering, there was no participation in sports."
A source has said the initial three cases involved members of the varsity wrestling team.
The most recent case was reported to the Suffolk County health department, Ring said.
The county, in turn, has reported this cluster of four to state health officials, according to a notice on the Suffolk County website. It's the first cluster in recent years that county health department nurses recall, spokeswoman Grace Kelly-McGovern said.
Ring also said that the infection "is quite common and it is possible that more cases will be identified," with "the revelation of these cases" resulting in part from heightened awareness.
Though most of these infections "aren't serious," he said, "the fact that some may become quite serious is why we will continue to act with diligence in addressing this matter."
"Although MRSA sounds alarming, the infection is very common and can be contracted anywhere," Ring said in an earlier message. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate "about one in three people carry staph in their nose, usually without any illness."
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a staph infection that is resistant to some common antibiotics. It can be spread through direct skin-to-skin contact or through contact with wound drainage, but not by air, Ring said in a message last month.
The condition "is treatable with strong broad-spectrum antibiotics." But, "if left untreated, it may result in severe illness that requires hospitalization."
Individual cases of MRSA are not reportable to health officials, but schools are called on to report a cluster when there's some commonality, such as playing on the same sports team, said Mary Ellen Laurain, spokeswoman for the Nassau County health department. Nassau has not had such a cluster report from a school in at least the past two years, she said.