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District Investigating Stomach Ailment at Reiche School

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District Investigating Stomach Ailment at Reiche School
Posted on 03/13/2015

Earlier this week, 22 students presented to the Reiche  Elementary School nurse's office with a sudden onset of stomach illness and vomiting. Most of the students recovered within hours and all are now back in school. However, because of the unusual number of cases and presentation, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Portland City Health officials were notified. The CDC and Portland health officials are working with the school to determine the cause of the illness. As of March 13, the cause has not been determined.

The students presented with the stomach ailment in the afternoon of Tuesday, March 10. Students did not report other symptoms nor did they exhibit any. Parents of the ill children were immediately notified.

Students and parents of affected students reported improvement of symptoms within hours of onset. No child required further medical care. All but one student returned to school the next day with no further symptoms. A parent reported that the child who did not return was quite tired. The child has since returned to school with no further symptoms, and all 22 students were in attendance today.

Tina Veilleux, school nurse coordinator for the Portland Public Schools, sent a letter home to Reiche parents notifying them of the incident. And, as a precaution, PPS Food Services has provided samples of the food served to students that day to a state laboratory for testing. The results of those tests are pending.

In the meantime, the state and the city Health Division did an inspection of the Portland Public Schools’ Food Service central kitchen and Reiche School. The central kitchen had no violations, but four were found at Reiche. The manager of the city’s Public Health Division, Michael Russell, has confirmed that Food Service has corrected the violations.

In a recent health inspection that took place in January 2015, Reiche was found to be in compliance, with no violations. That also was the case in other inspections done at the school in 2010 and 2014.

Nurses across the district are monitoring students with GI symptoms. There has not been this type of presentation in any other school in the district.

This illness cluster may not be related to food, Veilleux noted. Every year, GI infections circulate through the population. The sudden onset and number of students made this case unusual.

In her letter, Veilleux urged parents to encourage their children to wash their hands frequently and cover coughs and sneezes, in order to help prevent the spread of illness. Children who are sick should stay home from school until symptom-free for 24 hours.