School says rumored staph infection death has not been confirmed

Published 4:19 pm Friday, October 19, 2007

Jackson County School District officials are urging parents not to panic over reports that a Vancleave Middle School student died of staph infection.

Shae Kiernan, 11, died Friday at Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Mobile after coming down with a fever, said Robert Kiernan, the girl’s uncle.

She “went from a healthy kid to gone” because of a staph infection, Kiernan said.

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Kiernan said the Jackson County School District should take extra measures to protect other children.

However, the district does “not have any confirmed information that it was a staph infection,” said Margaret Bush, interim superintendent for the school district.

The hospital where the youngster died cited privacy laws and would not release a cause of death. The county coroner said he did not have the information.

Bush said no increase in staph infections is being reported among the schools in the area.

More than 90,000 Americans contract potentially deadly drug-resistant staph infections each year, according to government researchers studying infections caused by a staph “superbug.”

One researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that deaths related to these infections may one day surpass the number of deaths caused by AIDS.

Staphylococcus bacteria are commonly carried on the skin or nose of healthy people, according to the CDC.

Most skin infections caused by staph are minor, but some strains can cause life-threatening wounds or bloodstream infections. The bacteria are spread by skin-to-skin contact.

Numbers of staph infections are not available from the Mississippi Department of Health, because it does not require doctors to report individual staph infections.