Botany class at Tiffin Calvert High School

Posted: January 20th, 2023

The botany class at Tiffin Calvert High School in Ohio built their new school garden over the summer in advance of the new academic year. The garden is complete with fruits, vegetables, flowers, and more. In addition to using a hose for watering, they have rain barrels built into the ground collecting rain and runoff from the gutters of the school. The garden itself is located near dense woods and because of this fencing has been set up around the garden perimeter to prevent deer and other wildlife from munching on their vegetation.
Class begins on August 19th and all 25 students are happy and healthy, excited for the new school year and new knowledge they will obtain. Each class spends 45 minutes outside, weather permitting, in the garden studying and working.
On September 9th, 20% of the class was absent. Reports from the parents were that their children tended to be febrile, fatigued, have headaches, and joint pain. Two of the five reportedly had diarrhea and vomiting. In the garden that day, another student collapsed and had a seizure. He was rushed to the hospital for treatment.
As an infectious disease epidemiologist, it is your job to determine what is occurring at this school that is adversely affecting a number of students. What do you do?
The local physicians treating the students have their suspicions but nothing yet confirmed. Your department has been notified and is sent to investigate.
Answer questions below: (This is being kept very open-ended. Be very detailed in your response and avoid waving a magic wand. Be specific and be realistic with what you answer.)
What do you do?
Are there safety precautions that you and your crew need to take?
How might animals be involved in disease transmission? Vectors?
How do you determine the infectious agent?
What are the potential diseases on your differential diagnosis? Why?
What do you think is the infectious agent and disease? Why?
Who else needs to be contacted and why?
What are the future implications?
What do you do to stop this epidemic and prevent future cases from occurring? Explain in detail.
How do you deal with the media that keeps asking questions during your investigation? They want answers but you do not have them yet. Explain.

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