MANASSAS, Va. — Normally a bunch of middle-school students with skin problems would not be a mystery. But acne is not the problem at Marsteller Middle School.
Hundreds of pupils and several staff members have contracted an unexplained rash over the last two weeks, and doctors are baffled.
So far, the school has been unable to find any chemical or contaminant that could be causing the itching.
"We may never know what it is," said county schools spokeswoman Irene Cromer.
The rash came to the attention of school officials Nov. 20, when 30 cases were reported. The school closed the next day and again Nov. 27 in an effort to stop the rash from spreading and to conduct environmental tests. In all, about 350 students out of the school's 940 have reported having a rash.
Some of the students were diagnosed with fifth disease, a mild viral illness that produces a flat, red rash, often on the cheeks. But most students are suffering from a bumpy, itchy rash, often on their arms.