School partially evacuated after students break out in rash

Published On: May 16 2012 10:23:52 AM EDT
Updated On: May 17 2012 03:17:14 PM EDT

Officials still aren't sure what caused more than a dozen students and teachers to develop a rash Wednesday at McArthur High School.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -

Parts of a Broward County high school were evacuated and more than a dozen students and teachers were taken to a hospital Wednesday after developing a mysterious rash. 

Hazmat crews in full protective gear descended on the 900 Building at MacArthur High School, not knowing what was causing teachers and students to break out into an itchy rash. It happened in a reading room on the second floor a little after 9 a.m. 

"The principal was notified that a teacher had a rash-like symptom on the arm, and when they started to look into the situation, they noticed that other students had a rash-like symptom, as well," said Tracy Clark, of Broward County Public Schools. 

"It just felt like something was crawling on my skin," said student Alani Skyers. "It was all red."

Skyers is one of 14 people -- 12 students and two teachers -- affected by some sort of irritant. The entire class was moved to another room and quarantined. Those in the rest of the building, about 80 students, were evacuated from Building 900. The entire school was placed on lockdown as a precaution. 

"The important thing is that we have no respiratory compromise or anything like that, which would be our primary concern," said Joel Medina, of Hollywood Fire Rescue. 

The affected students were bused to Memorial Regional Hospital, where staffers assembled a decontamination unit in the parking garage. The kids were separated, with girls on one side, boys on the other, their belongings were placed in biohazard bags and then, perhaps the worst part of the ordeal, they were made to shower in some very cold water. 

The victims spent about an hour in the hospital, where they were checked out by doctors and released with no sign of the rash that sent them there. 

It was a relief for parents who are still scratching their heads about what caused the itchy emergency. 

"I was really scared. I didn't know," said Pharrah Cocio, the aunt of one of the students. "I was thinking anthrax. I was thinking all kinds of other things, so I'm just glad she's OK."

Firefighters went into the school to try to determine what caused the rash, but the cause has not yet been found. Three affected classrooms will be cleaned Wednesday night.

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