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Third MRSA case reported on same sports team at Rocky Point High School

Rocky Point High School on Dec. 29, 2014.

Rocky Point High School on Dec. 29, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

A third Rocky Point High School student has been diagnosed with the bacterial infection known as MRSA, prompting an alert from the district's superintendent to parents and staff.

The student is on the same sports team as two other students whose cases were reported in December, Rocky Point school district Superintendent Michael F. Ring said Tuesday in a message on the district's website.

The cluster, which has been reported to state health officials, is the first in recent years that Suffolk County health department nurses recall, spokeswoman Grace Kelly-McGovern said.

With this third case, "I can understand any cause for concern," Ring said. "Although MRSA sounds alarming, the infection is very common and can be contracted anywhere," he said, citing data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicate that "about one in three people carry staph in their nose, usually without any illness" and "two in 100 people carry MRSA."

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 an earlier 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.

Rocky Point's third student "has not been engaged in any team activities since before the winter recess," said Ring, who also noted that "privacy laws restrict me from sharing details about the individuals involved."

The district did not identify what sport the team plays.

A source said the three are all members of the varsity wrestling team, and one has recovered and returned to the team, while the other two have not returned to the team.

Since December "the district has taken great measures with sanitation, and will continue with our cleaning and disinfecting efforts throughoutthe entire building," Ring said. The district is following CDC recommendations, and "we are acting out of an abundance of caution in identifying any infections and making sure that they are addressed immediately."

If a staph infection is suspected, he said in December, parents are advised to contact their doctors and take their children in for testing. To help the district track cases, parents also are asked to report confirmed diagnoses to the school nurse.

MRSA may "appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that might be red, swollen, painful, warm to the touch, full of pus or other drainage, accompanied by fever," according to the CDC.

With Gregg Sarra