updated 10/16/2007 1:42:24 PM ET 2007-10-16T17:42:24

A high school student who was hospitalized for more than a week with an antibiotic-resistant staph infection has died, and officials shut down 21 schools for cleaning to keep the illness from spreading.

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Ashton Bonds, 17, a senior at Staunton River High School, died Monday after being diagnosed with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, his mother said.

"I want people to know how sick it made my son," Veronica Bonds said.

Staph infections, including the serious MRSA strain, have spread through schools nationwide in recent weeks, according to health and education officials.

MRSA is a strain of staph bacteria that does not respond to penicillin and related antibiotics but can be treated with other drugs. The infection can be spread by skin-to-skin contact or sharing an item used by an infected person, particularly one with an open wound.

Bedford Superintendent James Blevins said at a news conference Tuesday that the schools will be closed for cleaning Wednesday.

Many of the infections are being spread in gyms and locker rooms, where athletes — perhaps suffering from cuts or abrasions — share sports equipment. Ashton Bonds played football last year but was not playing this season.

Ashton went to Bedford Memorial Hospital on Oct. 4 after complaining of pain in his side, his mother said. He was sent home after doctors ruled out appendicitis, but was readmitted three days later and transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

Last week doctors diagnosed Ashton with a MRSA infection that had spread to his kidneys, liver, lungs and the muscles around his heart.

Early Thursday morning, Ashton had to be sedated and put on a ventilator. He was about to undergo surgery to drain the infection from his lungs when doctors detected a blood clot near his heart. Bonds said the clot was inoperable.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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