Salisbury High reports two possible cases of contagious bacteria infection impetigo

Published 4:38 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2018

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Two students at Salisbury High School have contracted a “contagious bacterial infection,” school officials said Wednesday.

In a ConnectEd message, Principal Luke Brown said only that there are two cases of a bacterial infection among the student body. While he did not name the infection, Rowan-Salisbury Schools spokeswoman Rita Foil said it is believed to be impetigo, a childhood and adolescent infection that can cause skin blisters or sores, usually around the mouth and nose.

While Brown said in his message the cases were “confirmed,” that is not necessarily the case. According to Foil, Brown was alerted to the infection by health professionals who work with Salisbury High’s athletic department. These officials said the outbreak looks like impetigo, which is a common infection.

Cases of impetigo must be confirmed through a lab culture with a physician. Foil said she does not know if that had been done as of Wednesday evening. Health records and student records are protected under federal law.

But Foil said the district is operating under the assumption that it is impetigo.

“That’s where we’re going. We’re suspecting that’s what this is,” she said.

Last Friday, Salisbury High’s football game with Oak Grove High School was postponed because of cases of the same infection among Oak Grove’s team. At the time, Salisbury High said it was consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and with Novant Health.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, impetigo is a common but highly contagious infection spread through skin-to-skin contact.

“It’s also possible to get it by using something infected with the bacteria that cause impetigo,” the academy’s website says. “You can get it from an infected towel or sports equipment. Wearing infected clothing is another way to get impetigo.”

Because of this, it’s common to see outbreaks among athletes.

According to the Academy of Dermatology, symptoms include itchy sores or blisters that can burst and crust with honey-colored fluid. Glands near the sores may feel swollen.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association says impetigo “typically starts as localized clusters of delicate, yellowish bumps that may increase in size and number. These clusters often cause no pain but can be very itchy and irritating. When blisters are popped, reddish sores are left on the skin which will eventually crust over due to the fluid.”

The infection usually clears within a few weeks, but treatment is recommended to prevent complications or spreading.

Foil said the district is working with the Rowan County Health Department and school system health officials to send out information on signs, symptoms and treatment to parents. While any infection is cause for concern, Foil said the district is working hard to preserve student health and safety.

“We just feel like we caught it quick, we’re moving forward, we’re doing everything we can,” she said.

Parents who have any concerns or who believe their child may have impetigo should contact the student’s primary care physician. Foil said parents are also welcome to reach out to school nurses.