Mystery illness strikes dozens of students at Fort Lauderdale high school

Those affected appear to have recovered, but cause of illness is unclear

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor, Sanela Sabovic - Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - One adult and 26 students fell ill "almost simultaneously" Monday at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, authorities said.

The students appeared to have recovered by Monday evening, but fire and school officials said they don't know what caused the mysterious symptoms, which included dizziness, headaches, difficulty breathing and nosebleeds.

The students at the private Catholic school in the 2900 block of Northeast 47th Street were exposed to an unknown substance inside the gymnasium, which caused them to become sick, said Battalion Chief Stephen Golan, a spokesman for the Fire Lauderdale Fire Department.

More than 100 students and faculty were in the gym for a Thanksgiving prayer before the incident occurred. The students and the adult fell ill once they left the service around noon.

"I received a call that some students became sick almost simultaneously," said Mary Ross-Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami.

Principal Paul Ott said the gym was evacuated and a Hazmat team inspected the building several times, but found no contaminants.

“At this time we have no real idea on what it was. We have searched back and forth and done several samplings and used monitors and have come up with nothing," Golan said.

The students and adult were taken to Broward Health Medical Center and Holy Cross Hospital. Ott said all the students were released by 5 p.m. and the school will hold classes Tuesday.

"We are trying to connect the dots. Anything we can do to make sure this doesn't happen again. I think it's just some sick kids," Ott said. "It's a mystery I don’t know if it's the bug or flu season. There was nothing found on the school premises."

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