Nearly half of Virginia high school students have fallen ill with flu-like gastrointestinal symptoms in mysterious outbreak

Nearly half of the student population at a Virginia high school was out of school Friday with flu-like or gastrointestinal symptoms, with an investigation into the source of the mysterious outbreak underway, officials said.

About 1,000 students were absent Friday from Stafford High School in Fredericksburg, Va., and many reported flu-like and gastrointestinal symptoms, said Sandra Osborn, communications manager for Stafford County Public Schools.

That’s almost half of the school’s population of 2,100 students.

Stafford High School is open Monday and “we are reassessing conditions this morning,” Osborn said.

A thorough cleaning and disinfection of the school was carried out over the weekend, according to the district.

Osborn said other schools in the district are not experiencing a similar number of sickness absences.

Stafford High School canceled all school-related sports and activities over the weekend, “due to the high number of student and staff illnesses reported this week,” according to its Facebook page.

In an update Monday, the district said 670 students were absent from school and all sports and extracurricular activities will be canceled through Tuesday in high school.

The district said officials have investigated drinking fountains and school lunch services and “do not believe there is a link between either of these services and these illnesses.”

The school “will continue to clean vigorously each day until attendance returns to normal,” according to the update.

The investigation — conducted by the district, the Virginia Department of Health and the Rappahannock Area Health Department — has so far identified a number of college students who have tested positive for the flu.

“We are also seeing a pattern of gastrointestinal symptoms, which may be due to influenza or a separate illness,” the update states.

The VDH recommends keeping schools open and continuing with mitigation measures.

The Rappahannock Area Health District said in a statement Monday that “the source of the illness has not yet been determined, and until we have more information, we cannot draw a conclusion.” .

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