Father Judge sickness remains a mystery

Nor­mal activ­ity re­sumed at Fath­er Judge High School late last week, but the in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to a haz­ard­ous ma­ter­i­als scare at the school on Dec. 4 and 5 has re­vealed little about the cause.

About 1,100 stu­dents, plus fac­ulty and staff, re­turned to the classrooms and of­fices at the all-boys school on Thursday, Dec. 8, after two days of sus­pen­ded activ­it­ies.

“The city wasn’t able to con­clus­ively de­clare the cause of why this happened. But there are no con­tinu­ing or new symp­toms [among vic­tims]. Whatever it was, it was a one-time thing and it passed,” said Jim Gar­row, a Phil­adelphia Health De­part­ment spokes­man for the case.

On Dec. 4, more than two-dozen youth cheer­lead­ing squads took part in a com­pet­i­tion in the school gym. That Sunday even­ing and on the fol­low­ing Monday, some 200 chil­dren and adults — all of whom had at­ten­ded the com­pet­i­tion — sought treat­ment at area hos­pit­als for ir­rit­a­tion or burn­ing of the eyes and/or skin. Some also had rap­id heart­beats.

Co­in­cid­ent­ally, the school was closed that Monday, any­way, due to an off-site teach­er in-ser­vice day. The build­ing re­mained closed to all but emer­gency re­spon­ders and key ad­min­is­trat­ors on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, Dec. 6 and 7.

Mean­while, pub­lic agen­cies in­clud­ing the Health De­part­ment and the Fire De­part­ment’s haz­ard­ous ma­ter­i­als unit in­vest­ig­ated the com­plaints. The Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia hired a private en­vir­on­ment­al firm for ad­di­tion­al test­ing.

“Everything came back in­con­clus­ive,” said the Rev. Joseph Campel­lone, the school pres­id­ent.

The ex­perts found no haz­ard­ous sub­stances in the air and de­tec­ted noth­ing un­usu­al on sur­faces in the gym. There were clean­ing sub­stances on the bleach­ers, but noth­ing that should’ve triggered ad­verse re­ac­tions, Gar­row said.

The city’s haz­ard­ous ma­ter­i­als crews have con­cluded their in­vest­ig­a­tion, while the Health De­part­ment’s dis­ease con­trol unit will con­tin­ue to mon­it­or those who re­por­ted symp­toms, Gar­row said. None of the vic­tims were ad­mit­ted for in-pa­tient hos­pit­al care.

Fath­er Judge con­tin­ues to work with the private con­sult­ant to en­sure prop­er hand­ling of clean­ing sup­plies and oth­er sub­stances among its staff, Campel­lone said. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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