Despite a recent wave of school closings and media attention about antibiotic resistant staph infections in Michigan, the number of outbreaks across the state might be lower overall this year than in the recent past.
Michigan county health departments had reported 15 clusters of the staph infection nicknamed MRSA to the state Department of Community Health this year as of late last week. That's down from 52 for all of 2006 and 77 in 2005.
This year's cluster reports soon could go up, however, based on recent reports from school districts, particularly in southeast Michigan and near Grand Rapids on the state's west side.
The Michigan Department of Community Health does not track individual staph infection cases. It instead relies on it relies on reports of clusters of incidents from county health departments. It could take between three and 12 incidents to trigger a cluster report, depending on the county, which makes it difficult to tell exactly how many cases there have been.
The staph infection causing the most concern is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
Schools in Walled Lake and Clawson closed or sent students home early late last week after confirmed staph infections among their students. Other southeast Michigan cases reported either last week or this week include schools in Rochester, West Bloomfield, Brandon, Grosse Pointe, Howell, Utica, Marysville and Madison Heights (Lamphere), according to a compilation of reports from the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and other southeast Michigan media outlets.
Cases also have been reported on the state's west side, according to the Grand Rapids Press. School districts affected include Comstock Park, Byron Center and East Grand Rapids.
Other locations in Michigan also have had MRSA reports. Several other states are reporting similar incidents.
Some schools have cleaned and sanitized their locker rooms, classrooms and other facilities to try and guard against the infection.
While overall numbers across the state might be down this year, MRSA outbreaks may be more prevalent recently than in the past in some pockets of Michigan.
"It makes us all aware that MRSA is in the environment, and people need to be aware," said T.J. Bucholz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Part of the growth in media coverage and school reporting likely stems from a government report published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It says more than 90,000 Americans are sickened with the infections each year. It sometimes is fatal.
The study gives a broad look at the pervasiveness of the most severe MRSA infections, which can be picked up and spread in hospitals, among sports teams, in schools, prisons and military facilities.
Ways to prevent spread include curbing the overuse of antibiotics, hand washing and other cleaning procedures, especially among hospital workers.