Cause of Rockford football players’ illnesses unknown

Kent County Health Department hasn't ruled out canceling Friday's season opener

The football field at Rockford High School.

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Health Department says it can’t rule out canceling the season opener for Rockford High School football as nearly half of the varsity team deals with flu-like symptoms.

A Rockford Public Schools official told 24 Hour News 8 that 30 players and two coaches started experiencing vomiting and diarrhea the past few days. Some are feeling better and back to practice while others are still out sick.

The district is stepping up efforts to clean and sterilize equipment and facilities before the start of the season Friday and the start of school Monday.

“We’re bringing in bottled water for the next couple days just to make sure that’s not the issue and to prevent the spreading of what is potentially is out there,” Rockford Assistant Superintendent of Finance Mike Cuneo told 24 Hour News 8. “We want to make sure when the students arrive here on Monday that they feel comfortable and safe and we want to rule out any possibility at this time that it’s in our water supply or something in the district itself.”

As some of the players and coaches have returned to practice, no other students or athletes who have been at the school recently have fallen ill.

That rules out some possibilities for the Kent County Health Department, but officials there are still asking anyone experiencing symptoms to stay home and see a doctor.

“We have to say to these 30 people, ‘What were all y’all doing together 12 hours ago, 24 hours ago’ … And we have to put all of that together then we have to find the likely suspects and make all of those gears mesh up,” health department spokesman Steve Kelso told 24 Hour News 8.

Health department officials are asking anyone still sick to contact them to provide a stool sample, which will also help in their research.

The Rockford Rams are scheduled to take on the Hornets of Saline High School at 7 p.m. Friday. While everyone agrees canceling the game is not ideal, the health department can’t rule it out.

“It’s health before football,” Kelso said. “We at the health department firmly believe that we’re going to have to figure out what’s going on, and we’re not ready to cancel the football game. However, I can’t rule that out as a possibility.”

The Hornets beat the Rams 37-24 in last year’s season opener.

If you have questions for the health department or want to help its research, call 616.632.7100.

The Health Department does not consider this an outbreak yet, but will have its outbreak team meet Thursday morning to go over preliminary research and findings.

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