Over 75% of Creekside High students miss school after virus outbreak

About 550 out of 2,300 students showed up for school Friday after more than a dozen went home sick

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A day after more than a dozen students and a teacher went home sick from Creekside High School with a suspected stomach virus, most of the student body did not show up for school, according to the St. Johns County School District.

As of noon, only 549 of the 2,300 students at the school had shown up for classes, meaning only 23.9% were in attendance on Friday.

The students who did show up at school said they were taking precautions. On Thursday, 179 students were absent from the school and a total of 190 students checked out before the end of the school day, but it’s unclear why those students went home early.

School district spokeswoman Christina Langston said Thursday that the teacher and 19 of the school’s students went home ill with some sort of stomach virus, which was not believed to be food-related.

“I’m nervous, but I’m trying to do my best. I got home from school yesterday and wiped it down with Lysol and have washed my whole room, all my clothes I wore to school yesterday,” student Grace Wiegel said. “I’m on the weightlifting team and we don’t have any competitions soon but we’ve got at least ten girls out with sickness too.”

Wiegel picked up her work but left shortly after to avoid getting sick.

In an email sent out to parents, school officials said they had gotten in contact with the St. Johns County Health Department and that the symptoms are similar to Norovirus. However, that has not been confirmed by the Health Department.

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.

Creekside’s varsity and junior varsity girls basketball games scheduled for Thursday were canceled over the illness, and all athletic events on Friday night were canceled, including boys basketball, boys soccer, Cyber Patriots club and the district Hi-Q match. The girls soccer team is also not traveling this weekend.

Langston said Creekside serves as an alternative site for Saturday’s SAT for students with accommodations, but no one was scheduled to take the test at Creekside, so that won't be an issue.

Langston said the school used a disinfectant Thursday night and will continue over the weekend.

The buses will also be fumigated over the weekend, Langston said, explaining that the process requires a 24-hour wait period after the fumigation, so it has to be done after school Friday.

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).”

RELATED RESOURCES: St. Johns County Illness and Prevention Guidelines | Health Services Illness Guidelines | Hand washing step-by-step poster

Lisa Gavin, who picked up her sophomore daughter, who was having stomach pains Thursday, said she believes there were more than 19 students sick Thursday, 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.

At nearby Bartram Trail High School, parents were lined up Friday afternoon to check their children out of school. The district said 600 parents pulled their children from school at Bartram Trail and five students were sent home with an illness.

The school district offers some guidelines for when a child should stay home:

  • Fever greater than 100 degrees
  • Chills
  • 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
  • Diarrhea
  • 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.

Health and school officials say it’s important to wash your hands with soap and water to prevent the spread of germs and illness.

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