Newberry Academy closed, students tested for swine flu

abeam@thestate.comApril 27, 2009 

An independent Newberry County school could be closed a second day after 13 students and three chaperones returned from a trip to Cancun, Mexico with flu-like symptoms.

South Carolina’s state epidemiologist Jerry Gibson said this afternoon he believes it’s “fairly likely” that the suspected cases confirmed by test results as swine flu later today.

A message on the Newberry Academy's Web site (http://www.newberryacademy.com) says an announcement will be made by 3 p.m. on whether school will be closed tomorrow.

All of the students on the April 16-20 trip, plus two others who did not go but have since become ill, were tested yesterday at DHEC for the swine flu, a disease that has killed more than 80 people in Mexico and sickened dozens across the United States.

The students' samples were sent to Atlanta, to the Centers for Disease Control.

Twelve of the 13 students on the trip have been sick to some degree, said Robert Dawkins, the school's headmaster. Two went to the hospital, but were not admitted. One of the chaperones has had some flu-like symptoms, as have two other students who were not on the trip - a junior and a senior.

Adam Roberts, an 18-year-old senior who plans to attend USC in the fall, was on the trip. He started feeling ill in the airport on the way back. At school the next day, he said, he felt terrible and slept through all of his classes.

"I went to the doctor and I had a 102 degree fever and my heart was beating out of my chest," Roberts said. "They tested me and told me I had pneumonia. I stayed out of school for a week and I was fine."

Late last week, some doctors in Chapin contacted Dawkins and said the students should be tested for the swine flu. Dawkins gave the doctors the students contact information, and all of them have cooperated, Dawkins said.

One student who went on the trip was sick before she left, but decided to go anyway, Dawkins said. And one of the students who did not go on the trip became ill before the students got back.

Since news of the school's closing became public this morning, Dawkins said this morning, he has not received any phone calls from concerned parents. The school's prom was Saturday night at the Mid-Carolina Country Club, and all of the students from the trip were there, Dawkins said.

Newberry Academy is an independent school with 250 students, Dawkins said. The school has 63 high school students, including 18 seniors.

Reach Beam at (803) 771-8405.

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