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Published: Thursday, 10/11/2007

Illnesses force Gibsonburg school to close

GIBSONBURG, Ohio - Nearly half the staff at Gibsonburg Elementary School yesterday were sickened by a gastrointestinal illness - possibly from food or a virus - prompting the district to close all of its schools today, officials said.

The elementary school was closed yesterday, and the unidentified sickness did not appear to affect students, said Meri Skilliter, elementary principal.

"I don't think we've pinpointed what it is," Mrs. Skilliter said. "We don't know, but we're taking all the precautions that we can."

More than 20 Gibsonburg Elementary teachers and staff had diarrhea and vomiting yesterday, as did a couple of employees from the district's other two schools, said David Pollick, commissioner of the Sandusky County Health Department.

Flu was ruled out because no one had respiratory problems, and tests will determine what the sickness is, Mr. Pollick said. Results from stool and vomit samples sent to the Ohio Department of Health's laboratory hopefully will be available within a day or two, depending on the workload there, he said. "Our staff was out doing interviews and collecting specimens," Mr. Pollick said.

Being especially diligent about hand-washing is the best preventive measure people can take, Mr. Pollick said. The district is cleaning its schools and keeping people away from each other, and it was not ordered to close schools today, he said.

"I think they're doing that to be proactive and try to contain it," Mr. Pollick said.

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