Nearly 670 Person County students absent after outbreak of mysterious illness

ROXBORO, NC (WTVD) -- A health alert in Person County has officials warning that anyone can get sick from a mysterious illness affecting all of the district's schools.

A gastrointestinal outbreak kept almost 700 students out of school and off the field in Person County. More than 100 students and teachers left school Wednesday due to the virus.

Superintendent Danny Holloman said there were 668 absences in the district on Thursday, which is 14 percent of the student population. Most of the absences came from Person High School, where more than 300 students stayed home.

On Wednesday, more than 80 students and 6 teachers from Person High School were impacted by the illness.

Holloman told ABC11 there's no way to know how many students are actually sick and how many stayed home as a precaution.

Unless the students are sick, the absence won't be excused, Holloman said.

Health officials say it has been an around-the-clock investigation to get to the source of what's made the students sick.

The Person County Health Department is working with the North Carolina Division of Public Health in testing samples from some of the sick patients.

Those test results could be back as early as Friday afternoon.

The State Health Department mandated that all athletic events be canceled. So far, a volleyball game, a J.V. football game, and a Varsity football game have been canceled between Thursday and Friday night. Several athletes have reportedly fallen ill, Holloman said.

Meantime, it's been a mad dash to sanitize the affected schools and buses with a solution containing bleach.

While Holloman can't guarantee all is well, he said he's trusting the cleaning is working despite parental concerns.

Classes were still in session Thursday - much to the chagrin of concerned parents who said they didn't want to send their kids to school.

"I was talking with a lot of the other parents who were really upset and really concerned that they're not closing the school down at least until Friday to clean the school," Jennifer Purdie said.

In addition to keeping the school clean, administrators and health officials are asking students to wash their hands and to avoid sharing food and drinks with others until they can figure out exactly what's going on.

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