McDonough students diagnosed with staph infections

McDONOUGH — Three middle school students have been diagnosed with antibiotic-resistant staph infections.

The three students at Austin Road Middle School in Stockbridge have been referred to a doctor, said Tony Pickett, Henry County’s director of administrative services. Their conditions were not immediately known.

More commonly known as MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus has been blamed for the death of a high school student in Virginia. A public outcry there forced school officials to shut down the campus for cleaning.

‘‘It’s always a concern when anyone develops an infection,’’ Pickett said. ‘‘The MRSA is more serious.’’

Parents have been notified and school officials have begun using the appropriate cleaning agents to kill the germs, Pickett said.

The unidentified students can return to school if their sores are covered and kept dry, county Health Department spokeswoman Hayla Hall said.

Nine cases of staph infections in Henry County schools previously were reported this school year, Pickett said. It was unclear how many, if any, of those cases were also of the MRSA strain.

At least five other students with staph infections have been reported in other Atlanta area school systems in recent weeks. Four of those cases — including three discovered last week — were reported at public schools in north Fulton County.

Another case, earlier this month, was reported at DeKalb County’s Columbia High School. After a freshman football player there fell ill, the school’s locker rooms were cleaned, but a DeKalb County schools spokesman said it is not clear whether that was the source of the bacteria.

And a middle school in Wrightsville in middle Georgia was cleaned last week after two students there were diagnosed with antibiotic-resistant staph infections.

Also, a suburban Atlanta couple last week said their 7-week-old child died in August from an antibiotic-resistant staph infection.

Staph infections, including the serious MRSA strain, have spread through schools nationwide in recent weeks, according to health and education officials.

MRSA is a strain of staph bacteria that does not respond to penicillin and related antibiotics but can be treated with other drugs. The infection can be spread by skin-to-skin contact or sharing an item used by an infected person, particularly one with an open wound.