By Bob Weaver

Calhoun has two new MRSA cases reported during the week ending November 3, according to Tim Wickam, Regional Epidemiologist with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.

He said physicians at Minnie Hamilton Health System in Grantsville reported the cases.

Wickham told the Herald that two MRSA cases were reported in October, with seven cases reported earlier in the year.

That makes a total of 11 cases reported by physicians in Calhoun in 2007, although there may be several more because physicians are not required to report the cases, or local residents could have consulted physicians in other counties.

Wickam acknowledged 51 cases of MRSA in Roane County this year, with nine being reported in October. He said Roane General has reported four new cases during the week ending October 27.

Wirt County has a total of seven cases for the year, with at least one new case being reported during the week ending October 27.

MRSA has become common to the area since 2003, but not in enough numbers to consider the presence an outbreak, according to health officials.

Wickam said while recent cases may be cause for concern, they're not cause for alarm. MRSA has been in the region for the last three years or so.

"The level of panic we're seeing," Wickam says, "even in the media coverage of the Virginia situation, where they're closing schools to do cleaning, that's really an overreaction."

The Herald received numerous e-mails and phone calls from Calhoun and regional parents stating their children have been affected by the disease.

Those parents describe some severe symptoms and a level of illness that has caused them serious concern, while others have expressed frustration over the lack of reporting of the cases.

One parent's anger was based on the lack of public information "just confirming MRSA is present."

Health officials say the treatment of MRSA is quite effective, although the hospital strain of the disease has caused some fatalities.

Since recent reports of the disease have surfaced, virtually every school system in the region has been taking aggressive action to prevent the spread of the disease.

Early detection, diagnosis and treatment is important.