Fruit drink, spicy chips and sympathy vomiting blamed for mass sickness that shut down school

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A sudden outbreak of mass vomiting — thanks to some fruit juice, spicy chips and “sympathetic” reactions — forced the closure of a North Carolina elementary school last week.

Forsyth County emergency workers, including a hazmat team, were called to Petree Elementary School Wednesday afternoon after 24 students and an adult became violently ill.

“Forsyth County Department of Public Health responded to the incident and began our investigation to determine the cause of the sudden illness,” the heath agency said in a statement. “Local and regional hazmat teams tested the building for radiation, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and mould hazards. These tests came back negative.”

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Health officials conducted tests on the students’ vomit and a red liquid found in one student’s water bottle.

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“This test returned no conclusive results for containing bioterrorism, chemical, or infectious agents,” the agency said.

So what caused the mass vomiting? It was a combination of undiluted fruit drink, spicy chips and kids’ hygiene practices (or lack thereof). Health officials concluded those sickened ingested the concentrate without diluting it with requisite water and ate a lot of spicy chips.

The agency noted the students drank the juice in a variety of ways, “including from the palm of their hand, directly from their lunch trays using straws, food items, and/or their fingers, or from the bottle directly.”

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Not appetizing, and as it turns out, definitely not sanitary.

The health agency also noted that some of the students were a sick as a result of “sympathetic vomiting,” which is caused by the sight, sound or smell of others puking.

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