Courtroom Disinfected As A Precaution

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An Athens County courtroom was disinfected Thursday morning because of concern that a defendant in court that day might have an antibiotic-resistant infection.

Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy indicated the action was taken as a precaution.

The defendant was in court to be arraigned on charges of receiving stolen property. McCarthy said that when the man arrived for court, he mentioned in passing that he had come there from the hospital. It was only after the arraignment that the court learned he might have MRSA — Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus.

There is conflicting information on how the situation came to the attention of officials. The Messenger was unable to reach the man’s attorney Thursday afternoon.

“We really don’t know what he has, or what his medical condition is,” McCarthy pointed out, but added he sees no reason for the man to make up a story about it.

The man pleaded innocent to charges of receiving stolen property, and was released on his own recognizance.

The judge said it’s his understanding that the man returned to the hospital after being arraigned.

McCarthy said the health department was contacted, and a decision was made to have Courthouse custodial staff disinfect areas where the man had been.

Paperwork the man had filled out was put in a plastic sleeve by the Clerk of Court’s Office.

Based on what he was told about the situation, Athens City-County Health Department Administrator Chuck Hammer said there is no reason to be overly concerned.

“It’s good that they’re being cautious,” Hammer said, but added that there is “a pretty low risk” that the MRSA (if he has it) will be spread through the courtroom appearance.

“You pretty much have to have skin-to-skin contact to transmit that,” Hammer said. It can be picked up from surfaces, but the person coming into contact with it usually must have an abrasion or some other kind of wound.

MRSA is resistant to some types of antibiotics.

“It’s not resistant to everything, so it can be treated,” Hammer said.