Subj: Rash outbreaks at schools a mystery
Date: 2/28/02 8:32:52 PM Pacific Standard Time

Rash outbreaks at schools a mystery

February 28, 2002 Posted: 2:59 PM EST (1959 GMT)

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Federal authorities are working
with state and local health officials to determine the cause
of mysterious rashes among schoolchildren in 14 widespread

It is not clear whether a single cause is behind the rashes,
which tend to be mild and go away by themselves.

The first outbreak happened in October in Indiana.
Subsequent cases have occurred as recently as February 21,
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday
in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The rashes have been reported primarily among elementary
school students, though a few middle and high schoolers have
been affected as well, the report said.

The rashes are itchy and tend to appear suddenly on the
face, neck, hands or arms. They are not associated with any
other symptoms and usually go away by themselves --
sometimes within a few hours and sometimes not for two

Though they do not appear to be contagious, "in-school
'sympathy' cases have reportedly occurred," the CDC said.

At one Indiana school of 390 students in October, 18
third-graders and a substitute teacher developed rashes that
spread from the face to the upper arms. Most of the rashes
occurred on exposed skin. No cause of the rash was

In southwestern Oregon, rashes were reported in early
February among 53 children and 11 adults in one elementary
school of 589 students. The rashes appeared on cheeks and
arms, were itchy and looked like sunburns. No source of the
rash was found.

Since February 21, seven adults and 84 children in a
northern Oregon middle school of 314 students have broken
out in a variety of rashes, including eczema an d a red,
itchy rash on the face, arms, neck and back, the report
said. No environmental cause has been found.

In both Oregon schools, the rash improved among several
children when they left school but returned when they went
back to class. No environmental cause has been found.

In Connecticut, 25 fourth-graders in a school of 253
students and 12 classrooms broke out February 20 and 21. The
rash appeared on the pupils' trunks and arms and legs and
disappeared in one to three days.

The school was closed for a day while authorities cleaned
the classrooms and replaced air filters, but no
environmental source of the rashes has been found. Rashes
were not reported among parents or siblings of the affected

In Pennsylvania, 575 cases of rashes have been reported to
the state health department in 58 schools and child-care
centers in January and February.

Most of the cases were among elementary and middle school
students, with cases involving girls outnumbering those
among boys.

In some cases, the rash went away and came back.

Investigators have unsuccessfully looked for a cause in dust
mites, cockroach allergens, solvents and cleaners, fungi and

The mildness of the rashes has hindered attempts to study
it, said Dr. John P. Maher, director of the Chester County,
Pennsylvania, Health Department.

As a result, "it is difficult to get parents to want to have
their young children subjected to invasive clinical
studies," Maher said in an e-mail posting to other health

The CDC is asking dermatologists and local school and health
officials to share their clinical observations.

Rashes also have been reported in Arizona, Florida, Georgia,
Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Washington and
West Virginia.