Students and staff at Des Découvreurs Elementary School will receive a medical follow-up in the coming weeks following January’s carbon monoxide leak.
The medical assessment is being conducted by a partnership which includes physicians from Sainte-Justine hospital, Centres Intégrés Universitaires de Santé et de Services Sociaux and Montreal Public Health.
Although it is not procedure, Dr. Maxime Roy, consulting physician for Montreal Public Health, said it is good medical practice to follow up with anyone who has had carbon monoxide poisoning within four to six weeks after the event.
A gas leak on Jan. 14 at Des Découvreurs Elementary School in Montreal’s LaSalle borough sent at 35 children and eight adults to hospital.
All staff members and students will be eligible to be seen by a doctor, something that would usually be done in a hospital setting, Dr. Roy said.
The main objective of the school-wide screening is to separate those who continue to show symptoms from those who are “okay,” Dr. Roy said.
The assessment will be carried out in two phases.
A makeshift clinic will be set up in the school’s gymnasium. Students will be looked at in small groups similar to a vaccination clinic.
Parents are invited to accompany their child to fill out a questionnaire which will list common symptoms for carbon monoxide poisoning.
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Delayed symptoms are usually neurocognitive symptoms, such as trouble with memory and balance, Dr. Roy said.
“It could be headaches, trouble with concentrating, mood changes and even anxiety,” Dr. Roy said.
Students who show signs of delayed side effects will then be seen by a pediatrician from a Sainte-Justine hospital, who will be on hand.
“Most people will get better with time, but that means they are not well at that moment so you need to keep track of them,” Roy said.
Dr. Roy says the best estimate is three to 17 per cent will have delayed symptoms, but it might be lower than that since those figures are based on cases of people being poisoned during a fire.
Individual follow-ups will be done with those who are still affected on a longer-term basis.
The assessment will not be mandatory for all students if parents do not wish to have their child participate.
Teachers and staff will also be screened, but it will be on a different day.
According to parents, some teachers have taken medical leave and have not returned to the school since the incident.
Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced carbon monoxide detectors will be mandatory in all educational institutes four days after the events at Des Découvreurs elementary.
School boards will now also be expected to conduct annual inspections to ensure the devices are working.