St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco’s Sunset District will remain closed through the end of the week because of a stomach virus that has sickened more than 300 students and 30 teachers, principal Patrick Ruff said today.
The high school, located at 2001 37th Ave., was closed today because of an outbreak of gastroenteritis, Ruff said at a news conference held outside the school this afternoon.
On Tuesday, 50 students called in sick and another 90 were sent home, many of whom vomited in trashcans or in bathrooms on campus, Ruff said. One player on the girls’ basketball team also became sick near the end of a game on Tuesday night, he said.
Ruff said about 325 students have reported being affected by the virus. There are 1,444 students enrolled at St. Ignatius, according to the school’s website.
Although extensive cleaning has been done at the campus today and the city’s Department of Public Health cleared classes to resume on Thursday, school officials decided to keep St. Ignatius closed until Monday “to ensure the health of our students,” Ruff said.
Dr. Tomas Aragon, the Department of Public Health’s director of population health and prevention, said the closure of the school is wise because, along with the safety of students, it would be difficult logistically to hold classes with so many teachers out sick.
Aragon said the city has not gotten reports of students sick at other schools but said that is a possibility because of the interaction between students in sports and other activities.
The San Francisco Unified School District posted a notice on its website saying there has not been a flu-related spike in absences at its schools, but that the district is monitoring the situation closely.
“We encourage students and staff to stay home when sick and to wash hands frequently,” the message states.
Aragon said the virus is only potentially fatal among the very young or very old, who usually have other pre-existing illnesses. He said most people start feeling better after a couple days.
Aragon pointed to New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who had gastroenteritis in the week leading up to his team’s NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 22.
Manning recovered quickly and “unfortunately he played really well,” leading the Giants to victory, Aragon said.
Although Aragon said the illness is relatively common, Ruff said this situation is new for him and other school officials.
“We’ve all talked about having not seen something like this before,” he said. “It’s so quick and so widespread.”
Peter Radsliff, whose son Jack attends St. Ignatius, learned of the virus when he received an automated call from the school on Tuesday.
“The unusual thing here was getting an emergency robocall. It was kind of surprising,” he said. “I give them credit. That’s a really efficient way to let the parents know.”
He said he got the call while he was at work, and when he called home he learned his son was throwing up.
Radsliff said Jack continued the vomiting throughout the night, and by this afternoon the bug appeared to have passed.
“He felt much better this morning,” Radsliff said. “He’s sleeping, feeling fine, just the typical 24-hour bug that you get over.”
Aragon said students and teachers who are sick have been asked to stay home for 72 hours until symptoms of the illness have decreased or gone away.
Along with the closure of the school, several of the school’s sports teams have had games postponed because of the outbreak, including the boys’ and girls’ basketball and soccer teams, Ruff said.
Ruff said he hopes all of the school’s students will recover quickly and be ready to return to class on Monday.
“Enjoy the next couple of days, and make sure to be healthy and be smart,” he said.
Dan McMenamin/Zack Farmer, Bay City News