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Lawsuit: Wrestling Mats To Blame For Rocky Point Student's MRSA Infection

YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The family of a high school wrestler in Suffolk County has sued his school district for $12 million, claiming negligence caused the 15-year-old to contract a dangerous MRSA infection.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, Anthony Lucia lay in a hospital bed fighting to recover from the potentially deadly bacterial infection. He was hospitalized for six days after contracting the infection back in December, and had to undergo emergency surgery.

The Rocky Point High School wrestler was one of five teammates to contract MRSA – short for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – last season.

The family has now placed blame on the school district.

"From our investigation, the Rocky Point School did not service or maintain the wrestling mats in any sanitary way, for years," said Lucia family attorney John Ray. "In fact, there's information that they did not flip the mats to clean them on the other side -- for seven years."

The Lucias allege negligence – a failure to sanitize wrestling equipment adequately. The family claims the mats provided a breeding ground for MRSA.

The school community is talking.

"The school district has been asking us just as parents to remain vigilant about the MRSA cases that were going around the schools," said Rocky Point parent Jennifer Maggio.

"Mats at wrestling, and my grandson is a wrestler in Rocky Point, so we worry about that," said Rocky Point grandfather James Smith.

The Rocky Point Union Free School District website contains information on MRSA and ways to combat its spread. They include good hygiene, self-skin checks, and getting to a doctor.

The infection is resistant to many common antibiotics.

The Lucias said the school waited too long, and alleged in the lawsuit that:

• "Rocky Point didn't let anybody know when the first student contracted MRSA;"
• "Policies and procedures must be adhered to;"
• "Cleaning with a dirty wet mop won't do it."

Frank Fernandez claims his son also contracted MRSA at Rocky Point High.

"It spread into gigantic, looked like boils; I mean, pus coming out… on his shoulders," Fernandez said.

The superintendent told CBS2 the district does not comment on cases of active litigation, and must maintain privacy when student matters are involved.

In messages to the school community in January, the superintendent explained that most MRSA infections in high the school were "not serious."

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