Mystery Illness Sickens Washoe Students at Three Schools Only

By: Staff & AP Email
By: Staff & AP Email

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Washoe County health officials are trying to identify an illness that's sickened hundreds of elementary schoolers and sent eleven children to emergency rooms in a single day.

Dana Balchunas, Director of Student Health Services for Washoe County School District (WCSD), tells KOLO 8 News Now that only three schools are affected by unusually high numbers of absences. Those schools are Brown Elementary School (off Geiger Grade), Glen Duncan Elementary School (near UNR), and Stead Elementary School (north of Reno). Balchunas says parents of children who attend those schools have already been notified, and that all other schools have only normal levels of absences.

According to Balchunas, WCSD is working closely with the Health Department to coordinate reports of illness and to institute preventative measures such as keeping affected students out of the classroom for at least 72 hours and cleaning all school surfaces with a special cleaning solution.

Health officials had speculated that norovirus was the cause of the gastrointestinal illness, but said Friday that tests are inconclusive about whether that's the only cause. They say they've requested lab testing help from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Test results are expected by the end of next week.

Dr. Joseph Iser of the health district says he's been working closely with the school district to ensure sick children stay out of class and to promote hygiene.

School officials contacted parents district-wide last Friday, when the three elementary schools saw infection rates of 20 percent.

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