Campus Illness Still a Mystery; UMd. Closes Residence Hall

Article excerpt

Byline: Jon Ward, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

University of Maryland officials quarantined a residence hall at the College Park campus, as Prince George's County health officials yesterday tried to find out why about 100 high school students and five staff members became sick over the weekend.

University spokesman George Cathcart said campus officials plan to disinfect all nonporous surfaces today at LaPlata Hall, where the students stayed.

Public areas, such as elevators, were cleaned yesterday.

Food poisoning is suspected, but health workers took samples from LaPlata Hall to test for other bacterial causes, Mr. Cathcart said.

"There's been a lot of speculation about food poisoning and that is still speculation at this point," Mr. Cathcart said.

Officials with the Prince George's County Health Department said it could take awhile to determine the cause of the outbreak because of the "large range of things that this could be linked to."

"Health Department staff members are working diligently within the investigatory process to determine the cause of the illness," Prince George's County Health Officer Frederick J. Corder said.

"This includes conducting detailed, in-depth interviews with students and staff pertaining to the type and kind of food or drink they consumed and activities they may have participated in, carrying out environmental inspections of the food service facilities, collecting food samples and maintaining patient tracking with hospitals," Mr. Corder said.

About 400 high school students were attending a conference on health care organized by the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) over the weekend. …