Originally created 02/11/99

School wants CDC to help with rash



BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- Glynn County Schools officials will likely seek help from the national Centers for Disease Control in identifying a mystery rash affecting pupils and adults at a local elementary school.

The county Board of Education voted unanimously this week to seek CDC assistance if the source of the skin rash at Satilla Marsh Elementary School is not identified or if results of the latest tests are inconclusive.

"This is no reflection on the (county) health department. But these are our kids we're talking about out there," said board member Susan Raikes-Walker, who proposed the action.

Since Feb. 2, 84 pupils and 11 adults have contracted a red, itchy rash on their hands, arms, faces or necks. The school has almost 600 children in prekindergarten to fifth grade.

Officials have tested water, air, soil and other materials, as well as replaced air-conditioning filters, looked for pesticides and used disinfectant throughout the school.

"We've been racking our brains and have dreamed up every thing you can imagine to check in order to try to find out what's causing this," said Superintendent David Mosely.

Glynn health officials continue tracking clues. And some progress has been made.

Brooks Taylor, director of the Coastal Health District, reported the rash seems to be clustered in the cafeteria and fourth- and fifth-grade wings of the school.

"That is where most of the people with the rash have been," said Assistant Superintendent William Young.

Taylor also asked administrators to stop using any chemicals at the school.

"We'll only be using water to clean the school," Young said. "The health department hopes to have some answers on samples taken at the school before the end of the week."

Anxious parents are ready for answers.

One mother of a Satilla Marsh third-grader, among the first to report the rash, told the school board she was worried about authorities' inability to diagnose the rash.

Vanessa Shaw said she has kept her son, who also has asthma, home from school since Feb. 3 as a precaution. She said his rash fades, then returns and gets worse when exposed to sunlight. Her son also has had a low-grade fever.

"He's miserable," Shaw said. "I think you are doing everything that you can, but my child is still ill and we still don't know what is causing it. The doctor has no answer ...

"My son's scared and so am I. What happens now?"

Ms. Shaw said their family doctor has prescribed an antihistamine and hydrocortisone cream to alleviate the rash symptoms. That remedy also has been used by others with the rash.

"We need to do all we can do," said Principal Joyce Coleman. "The health department has been wonderful and I think they are doing a terrific job, but they are dealing with so many variables and so much data. I'm glad that we can examine all avenues in this situation."