Seven students became physically ill on the junior southern college trip over the weekend of February 1. One student was admitted to Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania and three were picked up by their parents.
The stomach illness, marked by stomach pain and vomiting, was not limited to the trip, as students who remained in school have also developed it.
Junior Lina Chen was hospitalized on Saturday, February 2, while on the trip. According to her friend and roommate junior Shayra Kamal, Chen was throwing up. “What she had was pretty serious,” Kamal said.
The girls contacted guidance counselor Undine Guthrie, who was accompanying them on the trip. Guthrie then contacted the paramedics of Penn Tower Hotel, where the students were staying for the night. Chen could not be treated at Penn Tower because she was a minor, and was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania across the street.
Chen, Kamal, Guthrie and a roommate waited from 4 a.m., to 7 a.m. for a doctor. “The hardest part was probably waiting so long,” Kamal said. “During the whole time, [Chen] kept throwing up every 10 to 15 minutes.”
According to Kamal, Chen became delusional, cried from a burning esophagus and was angry that she had to wait so long even though she was visibly sick. Chen was picked up by her mother two hours after she was attached to an IV. She was dehydrated from extensively throwing up.
Many students vomited or had fevers and headaches. On the first day, junior Kar Ho Leung threw up a few times over the course of the night. He did not report his sickness until the second day during an information session at the University of Pennsylvania. Leung was given ginger ale and, as procedure for dealing with sick students on a trip, the staff notified the parents first.
“They were going to send [me] home,” he said. But by the time they were to make the final decision, he was feeling “good enough to stay,” he said.
“We carry with us the Confidential Medical Information Form,” Assistant Principal Pupil Services and college trip supervisor Eleanor Archie said. The medical information form includes health insurance information, student medical information and a parental consent form for hospitals to work on patients.
Archie said she has never supervised a college trip that “had any sick students that had to go home.” During the college trip in November, “no one got sick,” she said.
Students and staff believe that the students caught a stomach virus that had been going around the city.
There is no official diagnosis of the sickness. There was some speculation that students who went to Bryn Mawr College and Haverford became sick from their food. But students who did not visit Mawr still caught the virus.
“I think people got sick for a combination of reasons. Could be weakened immune system because of finals. Could be the food. We dined at many buffets at several college dorms,” Guthrie said.
Junior Sylvia Wu, who was sent home, said “it was just stomach virus because a lot of people are sick now, people that didn’t even go on the trip.”
The weather could have also contributed to the sicknesses. The three-day trip was marked by erratic changes in weather that students were not prepared for. “We had to walk around in the rain on Friday, the whole day. Many of us didn’t have umbrellas and some didn’t have hats or hoods,” junior Vincent Dao said.
“I found out a lot of students who didn’t go on the trip were also sick at Stuyvesant, so there was stomach flu going around so I’m not really sure what the source was,” guidance counselor Meredith Negrin, who also accompanied the students, said. “We can’t really blame the schools.”
Three students vomited on the fourth college tour bus. “It was a pretty tough situation especially on bus four, I was very proud of the students for handling it so maturely,” Negrin said.