ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – More than a dozen students and a teacher went home sick Thursday from Creekside High School, according to the St. Johns County School District.
School district spokeswoman Christina Langston said the teacher and 19 of the school’s more than 2,300 students were ill with some sort of stomach virus, which is not believed to be food-related. Parents and students, however, told News4Jax that they believe the number of ill students is even higher.
Langston confirmed Friday that more than 150 students were checked out of school on Thursday, but it’s unclear why those students went home early.
The school district sent an email to parents, saying, in part, “We have taken extra precautions to disinfect the school to ensure we are ready for normal operations (Friday).”
Lisa Gavin said that she picked up her daughter, who’s a sophomore, from Creekside after her daughter started having stomach pains within an hour of arriving Thursday morning at school.
“There was a line of parents picking up their kids and the nurse’s room was filled with children,” Gavin told News4Jax by phone Thursday. “I had 10 people in front of me picking up kids and that was at 11 o’clock this morning.”
She said her daughter started vomiting as soon as she got back home.
“I’m just hoping that it’s a 24-hour bug,” Gavin said. “She’s always healthy. It’s very alarming.”
Gavin said she believes there are more than 19 students who are sick, as some students who were sick stayed home altogether.
“I started hearing from other parents it was rampant,” said Gavin, who added that the timing couldn’t be worse with finals coming up. “I was hoping they close the school tomorrow to clean it and sanitize it."
Other parents and students also said they believe the number of students who are sick is much higher, but the school district only confirmed 19. Students told News4Jax that they noticed that some of their classmates were absent, they could hear students throwing up in the bathroom and teachers were passing out hand sanitizer and wipes.
“All my friends who are sick are saying it’s awful," student Isabella Murphy said. “I know someone who has thrown up 12 times today. I know another girl who is in the hospital right now because she was throwing up every 20 minutes.”
Murphy said she was feeling well, but her older sister, who is also a student, was not. Student Jenna Zenone said her brother is also sick with the virus.
“People are starting to make jokes about the situation, calling it the ‘Creekside plague,’ which sends a lot of people on edge because we’re all like terrified that we’re going to catch it,” Zenone said.
With Zenone’s brother still sick, her father, Jim Zenone, said she was not going to school on Friday. Other parents said they will also be keeping their children home Friday even though the school will be open.
The school district offers some guidelines for when a child should stay home:
- Fever greater than 100 degrees
- General tiredness or not feeling good
- Frequent congested or croup-sounding cough
- Lots of nasal congestion with frequent blowing of the nose
- Vomiting -- even just once
- Stomach pain that is accompanied by repeated vomiting or diarrhea. If your child complains of stomach pain for several days, you should call your doctor for advice.
Dr. Daniel Thimann, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, said there are different viruses that can cause the kinds of symptoms that Creekside students were reporting. Health and school officials say it’s important to wash your hands with soap and water to prevent the spread of germs and illness.
The Creekside’s calendar of athletic events showed that both the varsity and junior varsity girls basketball teams had been scheduled to play Nease High School on Thursday evening, but the Lady Knights’ games were canceled over the illness. There is SAT testing scheduled Saturday at Creekside, but the district does not believe at this time that the stomach virus will impact that.