Hawaii Public Schools Look for Ways to Minimize Deadly Staph Infection

Isaiah Iuta
Isaiah Iuta
Catherine Payne
Catherine Payne

KALIHI (KHNL) -- Hawaii is on alert after two mainland teens died this week from a potent strain of Staph infection. That strain is called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, and our state leads the country in the number of MRSA-related hospitalizations.

Farrington had a Staph infection case a couple of years ago, when a wrestler caught it.

He's fine now, but with two students dying from it on the mainland, Farrington High School and the Department of Education are naturally concerned.

Isaiah Iuta is a linebacker at Farrington.

This week, a football player and another student on the mainland died from a drug-resistant strain of Staph called MRSA.

"It's shocking to hear that there's that kind of stuff inside our locker rooms and around us," said Iuta.

He says he doesn't think about it too much, but it does cross his mind from time to time.

"But when you go home, when you start to clean it up, then you start to realize, 'Oh, what would happen if get infected or something like that,'" added Iuta.

The bacteria that causes MRSA is not new.  It's been around for thousands of years, but it has typically been confined to hospitals.

More and more, it's spreading to schools and other public places.

Farrington Principal Catherine Payne has already taken steps to keep her students safe.

"So we began to take a look at what we're doing here to make sure that we keep our athletic areas clean and that we educate our students and our parents," she said.

That will continue in the weeks and months ahead.

"Within the next week, we're going to walk through all of our facilities with our nurse and our athletic trainer and take a look at general cleanliness and how we're keeping things clean, especially with our wrestling mats and our locker rooms," said Payne.  "And the we're going to talk about how we keep our students aware so that they take care of ourselves."

Bacteria can breed anywhere, even in the weight room. That's why it's important to wash up after handling any equipment.

From here, players end up in the locker room, where it's typically damp and dirty. The MRSA scare on the mainland resonates with Farrington's coaching staff.

"You think about our athletes here," said athletic trainer George Kamau.  "You think of what you got to do for them, or what we want to do for them.  Then we got to educate them. Make sure they report all their cuts and bruises."

Students are grateful the school is taking steps to keep them safe.

"I'm happy someone is trying to do something about it, so it helps us as a team and the rest of us around here," said Iuta.  "I just really hope they find something to cure it, if anybody catches it."

Friday Hawaii educators met with the Health Department to come up with a comprehensive MRSA plan.