Bishop Blanchet sent an e-mail to parents Tuesday informing them that the school would be closed on Wednesday and Thursday due to an outbreak of whooping cough. But within hours the school issued a new statement blaming the illness outbreak on a flu-like virus.
In her original message, Principal Kristine Brynildsen-Smith said more than 150 students were out sick on Tuesday.
“I am declaring an emergency closure of school for at least Wednesday (May 9) and Thursday (May 10),” Brynildsen-Smith said in her message.
Later in the day, a notice was posted on the school's website saying the flu-like symptoms exhibited by many students and some of staff are probably the result of a respiratory virus such as influenza. The statement said there is "no evidence of increased pertussis" at the school.
A large number of whooping cough cases diagnosed this year in Washington prompted the governor to call in the CDC to help contain it. The state is making thousands of doses of the pertussis vaccine available to uninsured adults, and people of all ages are being urged to obtain the vaccination.
An assistant prinicipal told KING 5 that three people associated with Blanchet have been diagnosed with pertussis.
James Apa of King County Public Health said the agency supported Blanchet's decision to close its doors, but said the department had not recommended taking that step.
Blanchet parents were asked to call 206-985-3750 at any time to report student illness so the school can track how many are sick and make decisions about when to resume classes.
Brynildsen-Smith asked parents not to allow their children to return to school until they are fever-free for 24 hours.
Some students said they know exactly why this the number of illnesses exploded -- prom was last weekend. They think it might have spread there.
Brynildsen-Smith's note also said:
"1) Students who were scheduled to take an AP exam will receive a separate e-mail from their AP teacher, but know that we have communicated with the College Board and late testing will be an option.
"2) All practices and games will proceed as scheduled with no restrictions. The Metro League has informed us there are no restrictions on our day to day athletic operations. Coaches will be in communication with their athletes today.
"3) All other scheduled meetings and appointments will be rescheduled."
On Wednesday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m., Jean Enersen will host a Healthlink Special, “Whooping Cough Epidemic: Protecting Our Families.” The show will look into the outbreak and provide important information to help navigate this epidemic.