by Luke deNatale
Twenty-two students at Reiche Elementary School became ill with sudden stomach illness and vomiting. The students presented the first signs of illness in the afternoon on Tuesday, March 10th.
According to Tess Nacelewicz, Communications Coordinator for Portland Public Schools, all students reported improvement of symptoms within hours of the onset. No children required further medical care. All reported back to school the following day with the exception of one student that noted fatigue. By Thursday, March 12th, all students had returned.
Tina Veilleux, School Nurse Coordinator for Portland Public Schools provided Reiche parents with a letter notifying them of the illness and provided instructions for prevention of the spread of illness by encouraging students to wash their hands frequently and cover coughs and sneezes.
Due to scale and sudden onset of reported illnesses, Portland Public Schools Food Services provided samples of the food served to students that day to a state laboratory for testing. According to Ms. Nacelewicz, the State and City Health Division completed a full inspection of Portland Public Schools Food Service central kitchen and the Reiche School.
The central kitchen had no violations, but four were found at Reiche. The manager of the city’s Public Health Division, Michael Russell, has confirmed that Food Services have corrected the violations.
A prior health inspection that took place in January 2015 determined Reiche School to be in compliance and had no violations.
John A. Martins, a Public Health Information officer from the State of Maine explained that so far there has been no determination that the onset was of a food-borne nature. However, the investigation remains ongoing. The investigation itself was timely and collected information from the school nurse to determine the severity and scope of the illness, as well as collected information from the food service staff.
The Maine Centers for Disease Control will be monitoring for additional illnesses at schools and the surrounding communities, and will follow-up with inspections to ensure that issues have been corrected.