Portland Illness
© Gareth DavisA student is rushed inside the Buff Bay Health Clinic in Portland to be treated for a mystery illness that affected as many as 50 children at Buff Bay High School in Portland yesterday.
Approximately 50 students from Buff Bay High School in Portland had to seek emergency medical aid yesterday after suffering from a mysterious illness, which last night continued to baffle personnel at the town's health clinic.

Up until late yesterday afternoon, at least 20 of the approximately 50 ill students, many of whom were suffering from fainting spells and showed signs of hysteria, were still being treated at the Buff Bay Health Clinic by a team of Cuban doctors.

"Even now, my granddaughter has not spoken," said Naomi Fagan, grandmother of Samantha Cann, who was among the students rushed to the clinic. "She is unable to walk and had to be assisted by a porter, who whisked her away in a wheelchair. It is total confusion and we haven't been told what caused the dizziness and fainting spells."

The mysterious illness started about lunchtime, and affected mostly students from grade seven who were either having their lunches or were studying at the library.

One student, Shara Kay Lee, told The Gleaner yesterday that she had just finished eating a patty and a box drink when she, too, became dizzy and fainted.

"My classmate was crying and screaming at the top of her lungs," said the student. "I tried to console her, but I started to feel a little bit dizzy, and the next thing I know was that I was in the library with other students and teachers."

Principal Nadine Molloy Young said the dizzy spells and fainting encountered by the students were caused by panic attacks.

She said classrooms were overcrowded and that children had been fainting since the beginning of this year.

"We took three students to the clinic," said Molloy Young. "I am aware that one of the students is asthmatic, while another is epileptic. To say 50 or more students were rushed to hospital is not true and unrealistic. Two-thirds of my staff are trained medically to deal with situations like these. As a result, most of the students were not taken to hospital. I heard that some students were taken to the Annotto Bay Hospital, and I will be visiting that facility."

The Buff Bay Health Clinic, which in the past operated as a hospital, was downsized more than six years ago. As a result, all emergency cases have to be transferred to Annotto Bay Hospital.

Meanwhile, medical personnel were unwilling to give out any information. However, Sharon Duncan, who assisted doctors at the health clinic, told The Gleaner that as many as 50 students were affected.

"Some were treated and released by doctors," said Duncan. "Others are still being treated, and they were advised to drink lots of water. It doesn't appear to be life threatening, but I believe the feeling of dizziness is a concern."