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Health officials announce what caused 24 students to get sick at Petree Elementary School in Winston-Salem

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Forsyth County health officials on Friday released their findings into the cause of what sickened 24 students at Petree Elementary School on Wednesday.

Forsyth County emergency workers were called to the school at 3815 Old Greensboro Road shortly after 12:30 p.m. in a response to a report of sick children who were throwing up.

Twenty-four students and at least one adult got sick, according to Brent Campbell, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools spokesperson.

Following tests, the Forsyth County Department of Public Health said the illnesses were not caused by were not caused by an infectious disease, a foodborne disease or an airborne agent.

Instead, health officials determined the students fell ill from a combination of:

  • Students drinking an undiluted, fruit-flavored liquid concentrate not in accordance with package directions.
  • Students consuming large amounts of acidic, hot and spicy flavored chip products, unaccompanied by other foods or beverages.
  • Sympathetic vomiting and/or nausea caused by the sight/smell/sound of other students vomiting.
  • A combination of poor hand hygiene and food and liquid-sharing across multiple students and classes.

Public Health officials said the concentrated fruit-flavored liquid was brought from home. The hot and spicy chip products were both purchased at the school and brought from students' individual homes. Students who drank the concentrated, undiluted liquid did so in a variety of ways, including from the palm of their hands, directly from their lunch trays using straws, food items, their fingers or from the bottle directly.

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