Salmonella strikes dozens on science trip

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Fifty-four seventh-grade students, including five who went to area hospitals, have fallen ill from salmonella since returning from an environmental camp.

State health officials began investigating the illness after students began showing up sick at area hospitals on Sunday, April 19, suffering nausea-like symptoms.

Health officials have since been investigating the Stone Environmental School in Madison, where many of the seventh-grade students stricken with salmonella spent much of the previous week, for the cause of the illness.

Although salmonella has been located, health officials have not yet located a source or determined how the students came in contact with the bacteria.

Superintendent Michael Delahanty said district officials realized there was a problem on the morning of Monday, April 20 after 51 students and one teacher reported absent for school, all from Salem’s Woodbury Middle School.

The students – 97 in all, according to school officials – had spent four days last week at the overnight environental camp.

Delahanty said a few of the children began to feel ill sometime between the evening of April 16 and the morning of April 17. A total of 11 students went home early from the environmental school, and by the time the rest of the group arrived back in Salem Friday afternoon, several more children reported feeling ill as well.

On April 20, Delahanty said the Woodbury School nurse began calling the parents of the children who made the trip and found that many were suffering from nausea and digestive problems.

At least five had been taken to the hospital since returning from the trip, he said.

State officials have been tracking the total number of students who have gone to the hospital and said all are recovering.

Two other teachers also on the trip have not reported any illness, according to Delahanty.

Though this year marks the last time seventh-graders from Woodbury School will participate in the environmental school due to budgetary, education and liability reasons, Delahanty said the district has had a long-standing relationship with the camp.

“We’ve never experienced this type of a problem,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate and nerve wracking.”

Students participate in nature hikes, take classes to identify different plant species and learn about the night sky during the three- to four-day excursion.

Almost every one of the 393 seventh-grade students will participate in the program at some point in the school year. Delahanty said.

A group of students returned the previous week from the outdoor educational program without a problem, according to Delahanty.

Published Wednesday, April 22, 2009 2:38 PM by Salem Editor



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