Illness at Pot Spring Elementary investigated

Baltimore County health officials are investigating why about 200 students at Pot Spring Elementary in Timonium — a third of the children there — got sick with gastrointestinal symptoms last week.

The school's principal alerted school health officials after an "unusually high" number of students were absent Friday and a large number of students went to the nurse's office complaining of vomiting, said Debbie Somerville, coordinator of health services for the county schools. Nine staff members also got sick.

Typically, about 5 percent of Pot Spring's approximately 640 students are absent, she said. The absence rate was much lower on Monday than on Friday, with 10 percent of students out.

Symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea and low-grade fever, Somerville said. Most students' symptoms appeared after school hours on Thursday, she said.

"We have done tremendous analysis and no cause has been identified," she said.

Health department officials surveyed about 85 families on Friday about the symptoms, said spokeswoman Monique Lyle. Other students received a questionnaire and letter to take home to their parents.

The questionnaires seek information from families about symptoms, foods the children ate and whether any of their family members were sick.

Health officials also collected stool samples and are awaiting lab results, she said.

The school has asked parents to keep students home for 48 hours after their symptoms end, Somerville said. Teachers are reminding students about thoroughly washing their hands.

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