Danville students among the sick at Walker Creek Ranch

Approximately 50 Bay Area students and adults on a five-day educational trip in Marin County became ill Wednesday night and were sent home, a fire dispatcher said.

The affected students and teachers were part of a larger group staying at the Walker Creek Ranch, which is a campus of the Marin County Office of Education.

Reports told of at least one student from Danville in the hospital after attending the camp while 29 fifth grade students and one teacher from Tassajara Hills Elementary and four high school student counselors, including one Monte Vista High senior.

Outdoor school principal Mike Grant said that students from three Bay Area schools had been staying on the campus this week and that the illness seemed to spread equally among the schools.

The trouble began early this afternoon, Grant said, when "there were a few kids who were sick to their stomach."

He estimated that 52 or 53 people were afflicted with flu-like symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, and that the number of ill included mostly students.

From 2 p.m. until 10 p.m., that number swelled, and Grant said that with the input of Marin County health officials some healthy students were sent home as well.

"We decided that we had to get them home and get the bug out of the environment here," Grant said.

Some students were still on their way home as late as 3 a.m.

"It seems to be winding down, but it's been a pretty big afternoon and evening here," Grant said.

The source of the illness had not been pinpointed, Grant said, although it seemed to originate from one cabin. "We're assuming it's something viral that hit pretty hard and quick."

The ranch, which has been in operation since 1963, hosts fifth and sixth grade students, Grant said, with 200 students on average visiting the site every week for its 5-day residential science school.

The ranch, which is located at 1700 Marshall-Petaluma Road in unincorporated Marin County near Petaluma, is comprised of an outdoor school, conference center, and summer camp, according to the facility's website.

Students were visiting from San Ramon Elementary School in Novato and Redwood Day School in Oakland.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kim
a resident of Blackhawk
on Feb 4, 2011 at 7:19 am

My son was 1 of the 67 that got sick at Walker Creek. Kids where still getting sick on Thursday as well. I got the call at 4:15 am yesterday to come get him. We are all VERY interested in what caused this outbreak. The wonderful teaching staff at Tassajara took really good care of our kids!

 +   Like this comment
Posted by concerned mom
a resident of Diablo Vista Middle School
on Feb 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm

now siblings of kids who were up at Walker Creek are getting sick...

 +   Like this comment
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Tassajara Hills Elementary School
on Feb 7, 2011 at 8:34 am

I know of at least two Walker Creek participants who were taken to the hospital and tested. The results came back possitive for Staphylococcus aureussitive, which is food poisoning. The doctors made it clear it was not Norovirus affecting them.
I certainly hope the Marin County Health Department is seriously investigating this situation as I know of at least one high school volunteer that was hospitalized for 3 days he was so severely sick.

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