DHEC investigating after possible virus outbreak at Berkeley Co. school sends 130+ kids home

GOOSE CREEK, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says it is working with a Berkeley County school to determine the cause of an illness outbreak.

The Berkeley County School District released a statement Friday on the illness at Westview Primary School in Goose Creek:

District leaders and school administrators are working to address reports and support families at Westview Primary (WVP) who have children that are experiencing symptoms of a gastrointestinal illness. Our BCSD custodial team, along with a team from Disaster Care, will begin disinfecting the school building at 8 a.m Saturday morning. Additionally, we have been working closely with DHEC and have provided a letter to parents at WVP that includes information about the spread of illness, what to do if a parent or family member becomes ill and cleaning recommendations. If parents have any questions or concerns, we encourage them to use the contact information provided to them in the letter and, as always, contact their school or our district for support. 

Diane Etling's daughter attends Westview Primary in Goose Creek and said more than 130 students were sent home Thursday.

"I'd noticed numerous children coming out with sick bags as I call them," Etling said.

Etling said that was the sight Thursday afternoon in the pick-up line for the school. Having seen this, she said she went inside to talk to the school nurse.

"At some point past 130 they quit counting because they were going home in droves," she said. "Teachers were being sent home."

As a result of hearing this news, Etling posted to Facebook to alert other parents about what she saw, especially ahead of the holiday next week.

"I felt that other parents who are either traveling or having numerous people coming from out of town should know that there is this virus going around and it's lasted 2-3 days," she said.

Etling said several kids in her daughter's class alone were sent home Thursday after getting sick.

"She said that more than one child vomited at the lunch table and they all witnessed it," she said.

What concerned Etling the most was that the school never notified the parents.

She did say she received an email Thursday night from her child's teacher explaining how they would have to cancel the Thanksgiving Feast for Friday.

The email reads:

"Dear Parents, Unfortunately, our Thanksgiving Feast scheduled for tomorrow, November 17 has been canceled due to a high number of our first graders being sick. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you and your family. Thank you for understanding and Happy Thanksgiving. – First Grade Teachers."

"It's not the school's fault [this happened], but they need DHEC or somebody else to go in and help sanitize, scrub, clean to break the cycle of this monster," Etling said.

Etling added she kept her daughter home from school Friday because she didn't want this potential virus impacting her current health conditions along with other family members.

The S.C. Dept. of Health & Environmental Control also released a statement. It reads:

DHEC is working closely with Westview Primary School in Berkeley County to determine the cause and prevent the spreading of a recent gastrointestinal (GI) sickness that has impacted the school.  The cause of the GI outbreak is currently unknown. However, DHEC has requested stool samples for testing to help make that determination.  The department is aware that more than 100 students and staff have reported illness with GI symptoms.  Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.

DHEC has provided cleaning guidelines, hand hygiene information, and input for a letter from the school for distribution to parents.  To help prevent the spread of viruses, we strongly recommend everyone wash their hand frequently, especially after using the bathroom and before handling food items. Family members should use separate hand towels for two to three weeks after symptoms go away.  Another excellent way to prevent the spreading of viruses is to clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs, faucets, and commodes.

Keep sick children at home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have fever, vomiting or diarrhea.  Also, keep sick infants and children out of areas where food is being handled and prepared.

This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.

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