Local News

More than 100 Person County students, teachers sent home due to illness

Posted September 2, 2015 3:25 p.m. EDT
Updated September 3, 2015 9:46 a.m. EDT

— Parents in Person County got an automated message Wednesday from Superintendent Danny Holloman that more than 100 students and teachers had been sent home from three schools due to a gastrointestinal outbreak.

Approximately 86 students and six teachers from Person High School, 17 students from Helena Elementary School and three students from Woodland Elementary School experienced "virus-type symptoms" and many were sent home, Holloman said.

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.

Holloman realized something was going around just before lunch time, when large numbers of students were going home sick.

"A few of our teachers had also gone home, Holloman said. "A few of our teachers who never go home."

A few of them ended up down the street from the high school as FastMed Urgent Care.

"Your classic nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, typical abdominal bloating or cramping," said Caitlyn Coates with FastMed. "Typically, four to five days is the run for a virus like this. And is it fun? Absolutely not."

Clyde Bates, a sophomore at Person High School, said the illness was a distraction throughout the school day.

"Some people were cautious and staying away from people," he said. "They were not really touching stuff that was left around on the desk and all that. The teachers kept making us clean our area with Clorox wipes before we left class."

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."

Coates urged students to avoid sharing personal things, like food, drinks, and hygienic items and advised frequent hand-washing. The district also took extra precautions Wednesday night when cleaning school buildings.

The cause of the sickness was not immediately known, but Holloman said school will continue as scheduled on Thursday.

Coates said that certain symptoms, including a fever higher than 102.5 degrees, confusion, or blood in diarrhea or vomit should prompt a visit to a healthcare professional.