Published: April 22, 2009 01:45 am   

Salem students stricken with salmonella poisoning Environmental camp under state review

Source of Article:

Jarret Bencks

SALEM More than 50 Woodbury Middle School students have been diagnosed with salmonella poisoning, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

An investigation continues to determine the cause of the outbreak. All the students infected attended Stone Environmental School last week, an overnight camp in Madison, Salem School Superintendent Michael Delahanty said.

At least one student has been hospitalized from the sickness and another may have been, said Dr. Jose Montero, the state's director of public health.

The Department of Health and Human Services started an investigation Monday after school officials notified it that about 50 students from the same education team were out sick. Students had symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea and high fever. The department determined the children were infected with salmonella after analyzing stool samples.

State health officials are interviewing the children infected and have sent a team to the environmental school near North Conway to review the facility's practices and to interview workers. But Montero said they may never know what caused the outbreak.

"Sometimes we don't know," Montero said. "If we are looking at a food event and the kids became ill on Thursday, then the food is long gone by now."

The first reported sickness at the camp was on Tuesday, when one student visited the nurse's office with a high fever, according to Dave Freese, director of Stone Environmental School. Thursday, four students came down from their dorm rooms with headaches and a fever. Through the night, more students came in with similar symptoms. By Friday, around a dozen students had to spend time with the school's nurse. Those students were picked up at the camp by their parents.

Another group of children from a different school district is scheduled to attend the camp next week. Freese said state inspectors told him there would be no reason for future groups to be concerned after conducting an on-site review.

He said this is the first time the camp has had a problem like this since moving to Purity Springs Resort. The camp pays the resort to take care of all of its food and food services, Freese said.

"We've been here since 1993 and it's been a very good experience for us," he said. "We haven't had something like this happen before."

Fifty-four infected students missed school at Woodbury Monday, and 69 were absent yesterday, Delahanty said.

Earlier this year, the district decided to discontinue the Woodbury School's 33-year relationship with the environmental program. Delahanty cited the liability risk of sending students to an overnight camp and the camp's curriculum as reasons to discontinue the program.

Laurel Redden, chairwoman of the school's PTA, said most parents seemed indifferent to the administration's decision to discontinue the program, and she doubted an event like this would have any bearing on parental opinion.

"This is part of life. I understand the district won't be doing it next year and parents seem to be shrugging their shoulders about it," Redden said. "I think parents tend to take these things in stride. I don't think this will make that much of a difference."


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