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Parents want school to close temporarily

Students repeatedly sick with strep throat

Students repeatedly sick with strep throat

March 30, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA.

A parent of three children who attend C.W. Shipley School, where students have repeatedly been getting sick from strep throat, said Wednesday she is circulating a petition among parents asking that the school be shut down to allow students to recover.

Chonda Kosanovich said she has signatures of 12 parents who have children at C.W. Shipley and plans to deliver the petition to the Jefferson County Board of Education.

Local school and health officials believe that strep throat and influenza have been spreading through the school and have made attempts to control the problem by setting off fogging devices that clean the air. Custodians also have worked to sanitize the school, school officials said.

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Students at the school first started becoming ill in early January and by March 1, 144 children had become ill, school officials said. The number of sick children rose to 202.

Kosanovich said each of her three boys who attend C.W. Shipley have tested positive for strep and one of them has tested positive twice.

Kosanovich said her 9-year-old boy tested positive for the second time last Thursday. The boy was put on antibiotics and developed a rash, Kosanovich said.

Kosanovich said she took her son into an urgent care center twice for the rash and has now learned that he is suffering from "fifth disease" in addition to strep.

Fifth disease, which is caused by a virus, is a rosy red rash that appears on the cheeks and comes and goes for one to three weeks, Kosanovich said.

Kosanovich said she has taken her three boys out of C.W. Shipley in an attempt to prevent them from getting sick again.

In her petition asking that the school along U.S. 340 north of Charles Town be closed, Kosanovich said the shutdown would allow for "healing time" from the strep, headaches, sore throat, and aches and pains that have stricken students.

Some students have had strep throat three times or more and some parents have tested positive for strep, Kosanovich said.

"I don't know how else they are going to stop it," Kosanovich said of her request to close the school.

Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols said Wednesday the only way such an action would work is if C.W. Shipley students were completely separated from other children.

That means no contact with siblings and no contact with other children at places like stores, Nichols said.

"That's impossible," Nichols said.

Nichols said the school system is working closely with the Jefferson County Health Department, and the health department believes the school should stay open.

Sondra Biller, one of the parents who signed Kosanovich's petition, said she has a 9-year-old son who has had strep twice.

"Eventually the medicine's not going to work because their system will get used to it," Biller said of the C.W. Shipley students who have been taking medicine to control their symptoms.

C.W. Shipley parent Shannon Kitchen, who has also signed the petition, said her 8-year-old daughter has had strep twice and Kitchen said she has battled it three times.

Kitchen said her daughter just went off antibiotics for strep and now has the flu.

"She keeps coming home worse than when I send her," Kitchen said.

Kitchen said she is worried about C.W. Shipley students suffering serious health problems from getting ill repeatedly.

In a meeting earlier this month at the school with local and state health officials, C.W. Shipley teachers expressed concern about the large numbers of children who have been getting sick at the school and said some children are "looking like skeletons."

Health officials were asked during the meeting what to do next if cleaning the school does not control the problem.

Dee Bixler, director of infectious disease epidemiology for the state Department of Health and Human Resources, said there are few options, adding that strep is hard to eliminate when people are carriers of strep.

Jefferson County Health Officer Rosemarie Cannarella has also been working to address the problem.

Cannarella and C.W. Shipley Principal Mark Osbourn did not return phone calls Wednesday.

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