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Southwest Baltimore School On Alert After Scarlet Fever Outbreak

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- Several students are sickened by a potentially serious but common disease inside a Baltimore City elementary school. Now, parents and school leaders are on alert.

Gigi Barnett has the concerns.

On a Purple Friday, classes at George Washington Elementary in Southwest Baltimore are packed even though doctors confirmed several cases of scarlet fever at the school.

"Children are notorious for spreading germs because they cough and sneeze and wipe their secretions on all kinds of things," said Dr. Judith DeBose of the Baltimore Health Department.

So overnight, city school workers scrubbed the walls, desks and chairs at the school.

"Our facilities department came and sanitized the building," explained Principal Amanda Rice. "They did a special job on the classroom and the bathrooms where the children were."

Rice also sent a letter home to parents Thursday night explaining the cases. All of the children infected are in the same class.

"My first reaction was, if I need to take them to the doctor, or their mother, then it would be done. We would look out for the signs," said Charlotte Watson, a grandparent.

Health workers say the tell-tale sign of scarlet fever is a red, sandpaper-type rash on the neck or chest along with a high fever, sore throat and swollen glands.

And it spreads quickly among children so teachers are on the look out for symptoms.

Vanessa Wilson is a parent volunteer at the school. She says her daughter, Merikell, knows how to stay healthy.

"She knows when to cover her mouth when she coughs in her elbow and she has tissue and she knows to go to the restroom if she has to blow," Wilson said.

So far, the school has three confirmed cases of scarlet fever and doctors are still awaiting test results for another case. The principal says about 11 students didn't come to school Friday. That's because their parents are concerned.

"I want to dispel the myth that this is some sort of widespread invasive infection," Dr. DeBose said. "It is just as normal as any other school day here."

Doctors say scarlet fever is easily treatable. The key is to catch it early.

The school is urging parents to take their children to a doctor immediately if any of the symptoms show up.

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