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Sudden ‘extreme illness’ shuts down Caribou preschool

CARIBOU, Maine — Miss Jordyn’s Child Care and Preschool facility had to close its doors Monday after eight out of 12 teachers came down with a sudden “extreme illness” that also affected about 42 students and parents, according to school owner and director Jordyn Rossignol. The school reopened Tuesday after all but one of her staff returned following “24 hours with no symptoms,” according to Rossignol.

Rossignol initially suspected the illness might have been caused by food served at a preschool graduation party on Friday night but she later discovered that some parents and students who were not in attendance Friday came down with the same condition.

Symptoms, according to Rossignol, include fever, chills, vomiting, and diarrhea.

“Three of my teachers went to the Emergency Room and had to get fluids through an IV,” she said Monday, adding that their doctor told them it was a virus.

Rossignol said she then learned through Facebook that some children from elsewhere in Aroostook who don’t even attend her school were suffering a similar illness.

Casey Bouchard, communications and community relations specialist at Cary Medical Center and Pines Health Services, said Monday afternoon that the illness is “not at all” something to be worried about.

According to Bouchard, hospital staff are referring to the condition as “gastroenteritis,” which she said is a “technical term for a stomach bug,” causing symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea.

She said Pines Pediatric Care had handled only one recent case, and that another individual recently went into the ER at Cary Medical Center with similar symptoms.

On Sunday, Rossignol made the decision to cancel school due to the number of staff, students and parents all suffering the same symptoms.

“One of our little guys had his fourth birthday party on Sunday morning,” she said. “His mom messaged me on Saturday night saying he’s throwing up, and it just progressed from there. My staff started calling me saying that they were throwing up, and then some parents messaged me saying they, their children, and grandparents were sick.”

Rossignol said this is the first time in the school’s three years that they have had to close due to mass illness, and that she and her fiance, who both run the school, have experienced symptoms of the illness as well.

“No one has thrown up and, knock on wood, my two kids haven’t shown any symptoms,” she said. “I can’t believe they haven’t got it. One of the only kids who doesn’t have it was on antibiotics for an ear infection, but I don’t know if that has anything to do with it.”

With 38 students currently enrolled and a legal requirement to have two teachers in every classroom, Rossignol said she did not “have enough healthy teachers to legally staff the school.”

It is currently unknown how long the illness will last, as some parents informed Rossignol that they were better after 24 hours, and some who recovered on Sunday became ill again on Monday morning.

She said she hasn’t heard anything from the teachers on Monday because she instructed them to “not do anything except sleep and drink water.”

Both Rossignol and her fiance spent all of Sunday bombing the preschool building for insects, taking out rugs, and scrubbing and sanitizing all the toys, she said. She said while staffers typically clean well every day, they had been especially thorough on Friday in preparation for the graduation party and then she and her fiance cleaned “extra deep” on Sunday.

As far as what tomorrow will bring, Rossignol said she hopes classes will be able to continue.

“Parents are actually really understanding, probably because every family is affected,” she said, “but having to miss two days of work doesn’t go over well, so we will most likely be open tomorrow.”

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