The South Dakota Department of Health has identified the cause of an illness at the Lennox School System that had nearly one third of the students out of school with severe stomach symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
The severity of the symptoms and the number of students affected caused the school to reach out to the Health Department nearly two weeks ago. After some research, the department found it was a parasite called Cryptosporidiosis.
Only five cases of the parasite were confirmed and treated with antibiotics; some students were simply suffering from a stomach flu that was also going around. Others didn't seek medical attention and were not tested for the parasite, but the health department still surveyed the parents of all sick children to get to the bottom of the issue.
The parasite spreads through bodily fluids so the Lennox School System thoroughly disinfected the Elementary, High School and Worthington School according to the Health Department's instructions.
The cause of the outbreak is still being investigated.
"We don't know for sure exactly what caused it, speculation is that we had a petting zoo that our FFA program puts on, they've been doing it for ten years or so; they don't know for sure that that's what did it, but speculation is that that's what did it," said Lennox Superintendent Bob Mayer.
Mayer says the illness seems to be going away. At the height of the problem, they had 70 students absent; today, there were only 12. Hopefully it's a sign that the outbreak is under control, but he does encourage parents to keep sick children away from school.
The superintendent also encourages any school dealing with an illness to contact to the State Health Department, saying the organization was instrumental in solving the issue.