Bug hits band, sends 19 to hospitals

January 22, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons and Richard Irwin | Sheridan Lyons and Richard Irwin,Staff Writers

State health officials in Maryland and Rhode Island are seeking a suspected food-borne organism that hospitalized 19 members of a visiting high school marching band who came to Maryland to march in President Clinton's inaugural parade.

"We don't know what the organism is, or what the source is," said Michael D. Golden, spokesman for Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"It's going to take us several days before we get the lab results to see what this bug was," he said.

Health officials suspect it was a food-borne organism.

"It appears to be, but at this point everything's a guess," said Bill Follett, director of health education and information for Baltimore County.

More than 80 band members came to Maryland from Westerly High School in Westerly, R.I., with 14 adult supervisors. They left the Marriott Hotel in Hunt Valley early Wednesday in three tour buses bound for Washington.

During the day in Washington, several youths complained of feeling sick but marched anyway.

"We're investigating their food history for 72 hours: what they ate and where," Mr. Golden said. Results may "depend upon the organism, because some have longer incubation than others. We're talking to the Rhode Island health department, and they're going to interview the students who didn't get sick."

The chaperons called the Marriott Wednesday from the road to alert the staff.

"We called the county fire department, and they had an ambulance crew from the Cockeysville Volunteer Fire Co. waiting for the band members when they got off the bus," said Ronald Flood, security chief at the Marriott Hotel.

Beginning at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, six students were taken to Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and 13 were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital. All suffered extreme symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting, and were treated for dehydration, health and hospital spokesmen said. All had been released by yesterday afternoon.

Approximately 10 other students and an adult supervisor also became ill but were not hospitalized, health and hospital officials said.

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