Fears that two students in the Jurupa Valley Unified School District may be afflicted with leprosy prompted parents to keep their children out of school today, as the Riverside County Department of Public Health conducts an investigation.
"The diagnoses have not been confirmed. We're still waiting for the physicians to make a diagnosis,'' JVUSD District Superintendent Elliott Duchon told City News Service.
Duchon said he received word Friday that parents of the two students, whose identities were not disclosed, spoke with staff at Indian Hills Elementary School, saying that doctors had determined the youths were infected with leprosy.
"We disinfected two or three classrooms as a precaution. It probably wasn't necessary, but we did it anyway,'' the superintendent said.
The district distributed notices Friday alerting parents and guardians that two students had possibly been infected with leprosy.
"I personally wasn't concerned, especially after reading that this is not a highly contagious disease.'' Duchon said. "We have had several dozen calls from residents worried about what's going on, but I think I've had more calls from the press.''
The fall term at Indian Hills, located at Linares Avenue and Grand Valley Trail, began Aug. 10.
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According to the superintendent, district staff had not determined the number of children kept out of school today by their parents because of the health scare, but he acknowledged that "some pulled their kids out.'' Other children arrived at school wearing surgical-style masks.
Details on the conditions of the allegedly infected students, or where they're undergoing treatment, were not released.
"We're working hand-in-hand with the county health department on this,'' Duchon said.
County Department of Public Health officials said they were awaiting confirmation of the diagnoses. An agency spokesman told CNS the department had no immediate plans to release a formal statement.
Hansen's Disease -- leprosy -- is a bacterial infection that can be disfiguring, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. It's spread through droplets or secretions emitted by coughing or sneezing. The disease has afflicted tens of thousands in parts of Africa and Central Asia.
"Hansen's is easily treatable,'' according to a CDC statement. "The disease was once feared as a highly contagious and devastating disease. Now, however, it is very rare. Early diagnosis and treatment usually prevent disability related to the disease.''