Nearly 670 Person County students absent Thursday following gastrointestinal outbreak
Posted September 3, 2015
Person County, N.C. — Person County Schools officials said 668 students – or about 14 percent of the total student enrollment - did not report to class Thursday, a day after a gastrointestinal illness sickened dozens of students and staffers.
About 86 students from Person High School and 67 students from the other nine schools in the district experienced "virus-type symptoms," Superintendent Danny Holloman said. The cause of the illness has not been identified.
He described the symptoms as low-grade fever, diarrhea and vomiting, and urged students and teachers to wash their hands frequently using soap and water.
Parents were first alerted to the outbreak Wednesday afternoon when they received an automated message from Holloman. At that time, dozens of students from three different schools were sent home sick.
The district used a bleach solution to clean each school on Thursday, but many parents kept their students home as a precaution.
Person County Health Director Janet Clayton said the virus just needs to run its course.
"If people take preventative measures it will help stop it sooner," she said. "With the Labor Day weekend coming up, the schools are out, and on Monday it gives us an extra day for people to not be in congregate settings."
According to the Person County Health Department, a local doctor's office experienced a similar situation with several patients and staff members coming down with virus-like symptoms last week. The North Carolina Division of Public Health asked that samples be collected from students to use for testing. The samples will be tested for both norovirus and other enteric pathogens, officials said.
"They do want the health department to get some information from us on some of the students that have experienced this, and possibly teachers so they can try to get samples for testing to better clarify what this is," Holloman said. "Is it a virus? Is it something else? Obviously we are always worried about something like that."
Health officials expect results from the testing by Friday afternoon. Due to the outbreak, school officials canceled athletic events through the end of the week.