MRSA in Educational Facilities – An Emerging Issue

MRSA in Educational Facilities – An Emerging Issue

-Dannette Heeth, CEH, IP, NR-Paramedic

When I worked in healthcare back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, we dreaded what we called “The Big S”…Staphylococcus Aureus. It was impossible to treat once the bacteria mutated and became resistant to penicillin, but then a miracle drug was introduced that cured the disease…Methicillin, a Penicillin derivative.  It was thought staph would be completely eradicated with Methicillin, until the bacteria became impervious to antibiotics once again.  This is why prevention of staph infections is so important, especially in schools.

Staphylococci are harbored by either a person that has no symptoms (asymptomatic) of infection or by a person with the disease. It can be spread by the hands, expelled from the respiratory tract or transported in or on animate and inanimate objects, called “fomites”. Staph can produce disease in almost every organ and tissue in the body.

School LockersAny equipment or surfaces shared by students has the potential of becoming a fomite that harbors Staphylococcus Aureus. Staph has a long life outside of the body and can live several weeks on surfaces, so proper cleaning of shared school equipment should be a top priority in schools. Some of the most common, shared surfaces that may contain staph are:

  • Towels and benches in locker rooms since both high skin contact.
  • Athletic uniforms and items such as shoulder pads, athletic cups and helmets.
  • Whirlpools, shower floors, faucets, and work-out equipment can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Gym bags that have been in contact with infected benches, floors or clothing.
  • Razors should never be shared and must be changed frequently.

Prevention of Staph infections begins with good health and excellent personal hygiene such as frequent showering and hand cleaning. Other steps that should be taken:

  • Athletes with open wounds should not use whirlpools or swimming pools, and open wounds should be clean, covered and contained. Showering before and after using pools is also recommended.
  • Uniforms should be washed and thoroughly dried between uses. Dirty, damp uniforms can be a breeding ground for germs.
  • Hands should be washed before and after using gym equipment and all equipment should be cleaned with disinfectant on high hand contact surfaces.
  • Disinfectants used in education facilities should be EPA-registered for use against MRSA, and manufacturer’s chemical-use instructions should be followed.
  • Footballs, baseballs, basketballs and other such sporting equipment should be disinfected before and after each game.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, “it is generally not necessary to close schools to disinfect against a MRSA outbreak. Since MRSA skins infections are transmitted primarily via skin-to-skin contact and by contact with surfaces that have come into contact with someone else’s infections. Covering infections will greatly reduce the risks of surfaces becoming contaminated with MRSA.”


Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is a bacterium that’s commonly found on the skin and in the nose of healthy people. Most people never have a staph infection, but it is making an appearance outside of the healthcare environment and is commonly found in schools, gyms and sporting facilities.

Even the NFL has had an outbreak of the MRSA “superbug”.

Spider Bite or MRSA?

Spider Bite on LegMany people come to the ER and say they, or their entire family, have spider bites. Almost 100% of the time, the “spider bite” is actually MRSA and at first glance they look the same.  The author recently had such an event. After opening a box shipped from another country, she had a large, painful spot appear on the back of her leg. Being a paramedic, MRSA was suspected, but under closer examination, the wound clearly showed a puncture wound. After careful cleaning and warm compresses, the wound began quickly healing. MRSA wounds grow fast, furious and are extremely painful. Medical attention is required as MRSA wounds seldom heal without treatment.


Dannette Heath CEH, IP, Paramedic, EVS Business Development

Dannette Young Heeth, CEH, IP, Paramedic
Varsity Facility Services/Southwest Division
Regional Business Development

During the late 1970’s, Dannette was working in an Arlington, Texas hospital where the Environmental Services Department was outsourced to a janitorial vendor. She became interested in the training and processes required to keep the hospital properly cleaned. On her breaks, she would hang out in the EVS manager’s office to learn everything she could. Several years later, Dannette started a janitorial service, and with her medical background, began seeing ALL buildings as infectious as hospitals. Later in life she married a Flight/Critical Care Paramedic that inspired her to fulfill her dream of being a paramedic as well. She completed EMT-Basic training in 2008, joined MedicOne ambulance company (formerly MedCare), completed paramedic school and licensure in 2010, began the paramedic/RN bridge program, and eventually wound up as a trauma paramedic in a busy ER on the weekends.

In addition to her weekend work as a paramedic, she is involved in business development during the week with the best janitorial service in the world….Varsity Facility Services. Her life is full and busy!

Since starting with Varsity Facility Services in January 2013, doing Regional Business Development for Texas and Arizona, Dannette has already had great success. With her medical background, she was instrumental in obtaining the DaVita Dialysis business (63 locations in Houston); and Mountain Park Health Centers (4 locations) in Arizona.She also played a key role in bringing Varsity’s industry-leading services to Prosperity Bank (Houston); and most recently, State Farm regional offices in Phoenix. She concentrates on locating Fortune 500 companies, medical facilities, universities and national companies that have multiple locations throughout the country who need the level of service that only Varsity is able to provide. She believes in meeting prospective customers face-to-face, and spends at least 60% of her week “in the field” meeting new people and spreading the good news about Varsity to companies that have never heard of us. Her motto is, “The harder I work, the luckier I get!”

Medical Experience
In addition to working with Varsity, Dannette is currently working in the medical field as a trauma paramedic on the weekends at Dallas Regional Medical Center Emergency Department.She has also been an American Red Cross (Dallas Chapter) volunteer since 2007 and is on two of their teams: their Medical Disaster Team and their Disaster Action Team for fires/floods for which she is the Team Leader.She worked as a MedicOne Medical Response paramedic for 4 years.She has also taught infection control to nurses at the Texas Hospital Association; hasbeen a speaker at TORCH (Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals); and served on the Public Health Board, City of Grand Prairie from 2010-2012.

Facility Experience
As well as her impressive medical experience, Dannette has extensive experience in Facility Management and Janitorial.Before joining Varsity Facility Services, Dannette owned numerous janitorial companies. She has also served as Executive Vice President at AHI Facility Services; and as Director of Medical Treatment Facilities at Aztec Facility Services. She served on the BSCAI Board of Directors from 1955-1998; served on the Proctor & Gamble Advisory Board of Directors from 1995-1998; and was a speaker for Sales & Marketing at the 2002 & 2003 ISSA Conventions.

• University of Texas at Arlington
• Southern Methodist University
• National College of Technical Instruction (Paramedic)
• DCCCD nursing (Phi Theta Kappa)

Other experience and certifications:
• Texas State Paramedic, National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians – Paramedic (NREMT-P)
• Infection Preventionist (IP)
• IICRC carpet cleaning
• FEMA disaster paramedic certified
• Wildlands Firefighter
• Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
• CPR instructor
• Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)
• International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services, 16 Springs Fire Department (New Mexico).
• Disaster Action Team Leader – American Red Cross
• Certified Executive Housekeeper (CEH)

Awards / Honors:
• Won Dallas 100, Inc. 1994 for being one of the fastest growing companies in Dallas.
• 1995 Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce Enterprise of the Year winner

Literary Accomplishments:
• Published over 50 articles with SERVICES magazine and CONTRACTING PROFITS
• Former Columnist for Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce, “Who’s Who in Grand Prairie”.

Dannette’s hobbies include playing the classical piano since the age of 3, playing pipe organ, writing hymns and she is currently working on 2 books: From Acne to Estrogen, and Crazy Stories from the ER.

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