Health administrator: Norwalk virus likely cause of students sickness


Nineteen students at Lincoln's Challenge Academy were hospitalized over the weekend. As health officials investigate, steps are being taken to prevent anymore kids from getting sick.

The public heath administrator does not believe that this was a related to food poisoning or salmonella. Lab tests are still pending, but she says this is most likely the Norwalk virus, which causes gastroenteritis, commonly known as the stomach flu.

"We interview people who are ill and we try to find out information and commonalities," said Julie Pryde, CUPHD Public Health Administrator. "We try to figure out when the symptoms began, how long the incubation period was, what type of illness could be associated with this and it's kind of a policy of elimination."

More than 300 students live at Lincoln's Challenge Academy on the former Chanute Air Force base in Rantoul.

The Illinois National Guard provides a military environment. Major Brad Leighton says they are still looking into what exactly caused cadets and staff to get sick. Pryde is still looking for answers as well.

"It could have been started or spread by ill food handlers, ill staff, or ill cadets," Pryde said. "We just don't know right now."

According to policy, the academy contacted public health officials. A team was on site over the weekend talking with patients and staff and taking samples.

Pryde said,"we take food samples and samples from ill individuals and until we get our laboratory confirmation back, this is only a hypothesis that we're working under, but it seems to be the likeliest scenario."

The dining facility is closed for now as a precaution. Public health workers and staff will sanitize everything before it can be opened. Lincoln's Challenge is getting its food from local restaurants.

Everyone who went to the hospital over the weekend has returned to the academy. All parents have been notified also. Lab test results are expected to be complete by the middle of next week.

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