Marstellar rash subsiding, officials say; other schools still affected

MANASSAS — After only 14 students at Marsteller Middle School experienced a skin rash Monday, school officials believe the still-mysterious ailment may be subsiding.

However, it was reported that 48 students from 18 other schools in the county complained Monday of having an itchy, red, skin irritation.

More than one-third of Marsteller’s population came down with the rash in the last two weeks, and 58 students and staff members from 19 other county schools complained of a similar rash Friday.

School and health officials remain puzzled as to what is causing the rash and do not know if the cases at other county schools are related to Marsteller.

“Its is believed to be viral, something that is being spread student to student, the way viruses are spread,” said Superintendent Edward L. Kelly.

Of Monday’s 14 cases at Marsteller, 10 students previously experienced the rash.

Throughout last week, school and health officials suspected the rash was the final stages of fifth disease, an itchy ailment in which any given school outbreak may affect up to 60 percent of the population.

After one Marsteller student was diagnosed as having the disease, school officials ordered that blood tests be conducted on afflicted students and staff members to see if fifth disease was causing the swarm of rashes.

School officials received blood test results from three teachers Monday, indicating that they did not have fifth disease. Students’ blood test results were not available Monday.

Signs of fifth disease include a sometimes itchy rash on the cheeks, limbs and trunk. A low-grade fever, malaise or cold symptoms may accompany the rash, according to the National Center for Infectious Diseases.

The rash is the last stage of the disease and indicates that the contagious period is over, according to center documentation.

Although some doctors said last week that the rash was being caused by something in the school’s environment, diligent environmental health- and hazardous-materials tests at Marsteller found nothing that could cause an allergic reaction.

“Most doctors said it’s viral. Hopefully, it’s a viral thing and it’s run its course,” Kelly said.

Reports of rashes came from 19 schools throughout the county Thursday and Friday. Of the 119 total cases reported at county schools Friday, one was diagnosed as fifth disease, while another was determined to be poison ivy.

There were no diagnoses on Monday’s cases.

Staff writer Louise Cannon can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 123.

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