Carbon monoxide illnesses prompt closures of 2 south Ala. schools

At least 8 students became ill, but tests continue to show the school is not the source of exposure

2 Wiregrass schools close due to illness

COFFEE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Two south Alabama schools are temporarily closed and an investigation is underway after multiple students became ill Thursday. Tests showed the students had elevated levels of deadly carbon monoxide in their systems.

Officials with Coffee County Schools said four New Brockton students began showing signs of what was initially believed to be heat stress during gym class Thursday afternoon. The students had headaches, dizziness and nausea.

Out of precaution, they were transported to Enterprise Medical Center for an evaluation. Medical professionals discovered the students were suffering from the effects of elevated levels of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is colorless, odorless and tasteless. It’s dangerous because it starves the heart, brain and other vital organs by displacing oxygen in the blood. Large amounts of carbon monoxide can overcome a person within minutes, without warning, causing a loss of consciousness and, ultimately, suffocation.

Upon getting the test results, the school immediately evacuated all students from the gym and a sweep was conducted. No elevated levels of carbon monoxide were found in the gym or any other areas of the school.

Later in the evening, four more New Brockton High School students were taken to the emergency room with similar symptoms. Tests also showed they had elevated carbon monoxide levels.

Out of precaution, Coffee County Schools Superintendent Kevin Killingsworth said both New Brockton Elementary and New Brockton High were closed Friday.

A second sweep of the school campus was conducted, but again, officials say tests came up negative. Friday morning, a third sweep was conducted, as well as tests to all system busses to make sure there were no carbon monoxide leaks.

The school system said it doesn’t believe at this point that the students’ exposure happened at school, but added that it will provide updates if new details become available.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has been asked to assist the school system with interviewing students and parents in an attempt to find a common link. Additionally, the Coffee County sheriff’s and EMA offices are assisting with the investigation.

Anyone associated with the system who begins to show signs of the illness is asked to call their doctor and inform the school system.

All students have since been released from the hospital.

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