Doctors Discuss Strep Risk

strep riskSAMS VALLEY, Ore. – Sams Valley Elementary School will reopen Friday, after being closed because of the sudden illness and death of a staff member.

Teacher’s Aid Tami Smurzynski died Tuesday due to complications from strep. The school closed Tuesday and Wednesday while workers cleaned and sanitized the campus.

The exact details of what led to Smurzynski’s death from strep are not being released, but Jackson County Public Health said there is no public health risk. A close family member and two school staff members also recently fell ill, but county health said there is no information on whether the cases are related.

Doctors say strep bacteria is very common and most people are exposed to it at some time, but the use of antibiotics typically fights off the bacteria.

Dr. Alan Bates said it is extremely rare for strep to lead to something life-threatening. Bates does not know about Smurzynski’s case, but said in rare cases, strep can overpower the immune system and enter the bloodstream, causing sepsis. The infection can then spread to vital organs, and can cause kidney failure or heart valve problems. Bates said some signs that the strep infection is worsening include a high fever of more than 103 degrees, or a shaking chill and sweats. He said people with any strep symptoms should typically see a doctor for a diagnosis.

“You could be seriously ill and not realize it and could be risking your life,” he said.

Smurzynski’s friends have set up a scholarship account at Chase Bank to help with her two daughters.