The Northwestern Health Unit is investigating Crossroads School in Devlin after a number of students there came down with a ’flu-like sickness over the past week.
“We currently have staff investigating there,” Ken Allan, infectious disease control team leader with the health unit, said Tuesday.
“We’re taking water samples to rule out whether it is or isn’t localized to the school, and to find out whether it’s a virus, microbe, or bacteria,” he added.
Since last week, numerous students have experienced nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some staff also were affected.
But the cause is not yet known.
Bill Limerick, environmental health team leader, noted although it was first thought the sickness could be “fifth disease,” a common ’flu that afflicts this area sporadically, he assessed this illness “doesn’t sound like [fifth disease]” upon further investigation.
In fact, the strictly gastrointestinal nature of the current wave of illness pointed investigators away from the “’flu theory.” Those afflicted with fifth disease, or “slap cheek” as it is sometimes known, usually exhibit a flushing of the skin on the arms and face, as well as a fever.
These haven’t been common symptoms to all the cases at Crossroads.
Luckily, the problem seems to be losing steam as the health unit’s investigation continues.
“We’ve had the majority of our students get this on one day or another,” said Crossroads principal Len LaRocque. “But it’s petering out now.”
LaRocque noted although the “bug” seemed to affect people only once, it did hit some students twice. “Those are rare cases, though,” he added.
Most students and staff were back on their feet again about 24 hours after coming down with the symptoms, LaRocque remarked.
No other school in the area has reported such a rash of illnesses but Allan noted cases similar to those at Crossroads appeared recently in Kenora.