10 Cases of Drug-Resistant Staph Reported at Iona College

Westchester County is asking hospitals, doctors and colleges to report any cases of an antibiotic-resistant staph infection after 10 members of an Iona College athletic team were infected, a health official said.

The county Health Commissioner, Dr. Joshua Lipsman, said he hoped to "see if there's any kind of a pattern." The reporting isn't required by law.

Lipsman said Friday that the Iona outbreak was "under control." One student athlete had been hospitalized but has been released, he said. Iona spokeswoman Cecelia Donohoe said all the cases had been caught early and were mild, involving "a pimple or a boil."

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Staph infections, including the serious Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, have spread through schools nationwide in recent weeks, according to health and education officials. A high school senior in Virginia died of the disease on Monday, his mother said.

Lipsman confirmed in an interview that the Iona cases were MRSA, which does not respond to penicillin and related antibiotics but can be treated with other drugs. He called the disease "an emerging health threat."

The infection can be spread by skin-to-skin contact or by sharing an item used by an infected person, particularly one with an open wound.

The cases at Iona began last month. The total includes nine students and one coach, Lipsman said.

He said the last confirmed case was a week old, "but because it is an emerging health threat, and there aren't a lot of good statistics yet, we can't say for sure whether that case last week will be the last or they might have a few more."

The commissioner said Iona, in New Rochelle, was dealing properly with the infection. He and Donohoe said team members with open wounds have been forbidden to play, the weight room has been disinfected and all students have been advised about proper hygiene, such as "scrupulous" hand washing and avoiding the sharing of razors or towels.

Lipsman said county health officials would meet with Iona representatives next week to review the cases and any other measures that should be taken.

Donohoe would not say which Iona team was affected, citing privacy concerns. Lipsman said all the victims were men.