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Two MRSA cases diagnosed at Westfield juvenile detention facility

By Dan Glaun on August 18, 2015

Two cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have been diagnosed at the Westfield Youth Services Center juvenile detention facility, the Department of Youth Services said Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement confirming a report of infections from the state Department of Public Health last night, DYS said the cases are skin-level infections, not the blood- or organ-borne variety that can cause more dangerous symptoms.

"The Department of Youth Services is aware of the two cases of MRSA at the Westfield Youth Service Center and are taking appropriate action to reduce the spread of infections," DYS said in its statement. "Although it is not a reportable condition, DYS has been in touch with the Department of Public Health to ensure the health and safety of all our youth and staff is protected."

DPH spokesman Scott Zoback told Western Mass News last night that there was no public health threat from the skin infections, which are not infectious if properly treated and dressed.

"We are not categorizing this as an outbreak," Zoback said.

The Westfield Youth Service Center is a 50-bed secure treatment facility for juveniles in the custody of DYS. 31 juveniles are currently on the campus, DYS said.

MRSA is a type of bacteria that has become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat staph infections. It can be life-threatening in medical facilities, entering the body of people with weakened immune systems through wounds or medical devices.

Outside of hospitals and nursing homes, most MRSA infections are skin infections and, for this reason, parents are always advised to monitor any skin problems in children for signs of infection. MRSA skin infections can be treated with drugs or, in some cases, draining the infection from a boil or abscess.

Skin infections are not uncommon in group housing, DYS said, and DPH has offered staff to assist the facility with preventing the spread of the disease.

Anne-Gerard Flynn contributed reporting.

Zach Prideaux