Bringing Reason and Common Sense to MRSA Madness: What Administrators Can Do to Calm Fears and Protect Those on Campus

Article excerpt

METHICILLIN-RESISTANT Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been receiving top-story media attention. About 25 percent of Americans each year are likely affected in some manner with staph infection. And it's predicted that some 20,000 will die from MRSA, a strain of staph that is resistant to numerous antibiotics of the beta-lactam family.

It's easy to recall a similar scare a few years ago over severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Years before that, stories about Legionnaires' disease were all over the news.

There's often only an appreciation for the role that campus cleaning people play when an outbreak or crisis such as MRSA, SARS, or Legionnaires' disease occurs and gets media attention. Until that time, many find it easy to question the purpose and work that cleaning people do in proportion to the money being spent on their services.

An outbreak can become a nightmare for administrators--the caretakers and guardians of higher ed facilities. There is a loss of trust and confidence by those who visit and make use of the property. It can affect the whole activity level and image of the school. But don't ignore or minimize these circumstances. There's wisdom in strong, assertive campus measures to reduce MRSA. These may require a few more dollars and extra effort, but that may seem like little when weighed against the potential liability.

RESPONDING TO FEARS

How can administrators raise awareness of outbreaks of MRSA and exhibit more aggression in minimizing, or preventing them, while not provoking unfounded alarm?

Proactive communication to regular users and possible visitors of a college campus is important. Given the media attention, now is a strategic time for procurement and human resources officers to reconfirm their campus's sound and responsive cleaning-maintenance programs that take into account MRSA and other potential outbreaks.

Review protocol with the building maintenance team, especially in the more potentially hazardous areas:

* Gymnasiums and related sports facilities

* Cafeterias

* Public surfaces with widespread skin contact, such as stairway banisters, telephones, elevator control boards, door handles, and water fountains

* Bathrooms

Generally, achieving an environment with minimal staph or MRSA conditions should not be about increased costs. …

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