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COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN? Health Says It is Testing For Impetigo; Education Says Its Knows Of No Cases

Sharon McCollum

Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum

CHRISTIANSTED – An outbreak of impetigo is enough to close down a school district in the United States.

And the V.I. Department of Health went on television Tuesday night to announce that it would be testing for the highly-contagious superficial skin infection this week on St. Croix.

But if there are confirmed cases of impetigo, the Health Department has not communicated that information to the Education Department as of Tuesday evening.

“As far as I know, we don’t have any cases of impetigo in our schools,” Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum told the Virgin Islands Free Press Tuesday evening from California.

Still an employee of the V.I. Department of Health went on WSVI-TV Channel 8 Tuesday night and said the department will be testing children for impetigo on Thursday.

Symptoms of impetigo include blisters or sores on the face, neck and hands. It is particularly common in school-age children. Treatment includes a topical antibiotic or an oral medication.

There is no information about impetigo on the Department of Health’s website. The last health entry for the site was in January. No one was answering the main switchboard number for the Department of Health on St. Croix at (340) 718-1311 Wednesday morning.

If there were confirmed cases of impetigo, McCollum said the department would be asking the parents of children who have developed rashes to be taken to a physician for diagnosis and subsequent treatment. To return to school, those children would need a doctor’s note stating they are no longer contagious.

If students at a school are found to have the unsightly, blistering rash, athletic competitions involving physical contact such as football, volleyball and basketball could be affected as opposing teams would have to be warned that students were recently infected.

Once the opposing teams have been informed as a precaution, contests could continue as scheduled if the opposing players agree to play.

Football, basketball and volleyball players would have to be cleared for action by a doctor before being allowed into competitions.

The remedy to prevent the spread of impetigo is simple: thorough hand washing, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Also, parents are warned not to let children in the household share towels and washcloths.

There is no mandatory infectious disease reporting requirement for impetigo, the CDC said.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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