Has extra cleaning fueled staph scare at elementary school - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Has extra cleaning fueled staph scare at elementary school

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Muscular Dystrophy forces 11-year-old Charlie Harvey to rely on help for everything he does at Mary V. Wheeler Elementary School in Bledsoe County.

"He can't walk by himself," his mother, Shea Harvey, says.

"He has to be cleaned, he can't wipe himself, he needs to be changed."

Back pain keeps him home from school often. But Harvey is concerned about letting Charlie return to class after hearing rumors that several Wheeler students have staph infections.

"When I went to pick him up yesterday, I smelled bleach," she says.  "All over the school."

Bledsoe County Schools Superintendent Philip Kiper tells Eyewitness News the district has had no confirmed cases of staph this year. He has declined to say whether any cases are suspected, citing medical privacy laws.

"I just asked the janitors to walk around and make sure everything's wiped down frequently," says first-year principal Candi Kempton.

"Since school started, I've wanted to protect everybody from the flu. They check water fountains, doorknobs, light switches, desks, things like that."

Tennessee's Department of Health considers those steps sufficiently proactive, according to spokeswoman Andrea Turner.

"We urge staph patients to keep their wounds covered and medicated, but we don't track outbreaks as a matter of course."

Tennessee does track the most dangerous of such infections, MRSA, when such infections enter a patient's bloodstream. So far this year, 1610 cases have been reported statewide; 92 in the 10-county region that includes Bledsoe. TDOH does not provide a county-by-county breakdown, Turner says.

Principal Kempton has opted not to send notices home to parents, addressing the staph rumors.  But she would like parents to remind their children to wash their hands frequently, and to avoid sharing combs, towels, or razors.

Shea Harvey plans to send Charlie back to Wheeler Monday.

"Just make sure he's taken care of," she says. "He's my concern."

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