Gastro virus strikes Kanesatake daycare, schools

An outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness among local youth has thrashed the Tsi Rontswa’ta:khwa Early Childhood Center, where at least 13 children have been sickened, including child one who was hospitalized.

While the spread at local schools has been mitigated by the timing of March break, the situation worsened rapidly at the daycare.

“The current virus has caused mild to more severe illnesses in some of the children, and we hope they recover soon,” said Melissa Simon, the manager of the daycare.

She emphasized that the daycare follows ministry protocol when it comes to determining which children are sent home or asked not to come.

“We will continue to apply our cleaning and disinfecting measures and will review our current policies to make sure we are doing everything we can for the health of the children, their family, and the staff,” she added.

According to Simon, parents informed the facility of three sick children on Monday morning, two whose symptoms were consistent with gastroenteritis, and a newsletter was sent out shortly after.

“We reminded the parents of the importance of informing the daycare of their child’s health and to follow the exclusion protocol in place,” she said.

Three updates followed, according to Simon.

However, some parents were upset by the way in which they discovered an illness was circulating.

“My daughter started vomiting Saturday morning,” said Karahkwiiostha Etienne, who has a two-year-old and a five-year-old at the daycare. “By Monday, I learned that my friend’s two-year-old was hospitalized. After speaking with her, she told me about a group chat with all the parents with sick kids. We were all in shock when we found out that the majority of the children at daycare were moderately to severely ill.”

The child who was hospitalized had not been released by midday Thursday, but according to his mother his symptoms were finally improving and she was hopeful he would be released soon.

According to Etienne, many of the daycare children were taken to the emergency room due to their symptoms, and she has heard of kids being sick a week or two before the newsletter went out to parents.

“I wish there was better communication,” she said, adding that by her count there are 17 children at the daycare who have been affected.

A public health investigation into the situation has wrapped up.

“The team that carried out the epidemiological investigation concluded that an outbreak was of viral origin with a predominance of people showing symptoms of gastroenteritis,” said Martine Cournoyer, spokesperson for Integrated Health and Social Services Centres (CISSS) of the Laurentians.

According to Cournoyer, the department has seen comparable situations elsewhere in the region.

Cournoyer shrugged off a boil water advisory issued by the municipality of Oka on March 1 as a potential cause. “The water samples taken before February 27 are all compliant and therefore cannot explain the start of the outbreak,” she said.

Public Health continues to monitor the daycare and is also collaborating with the Kanesatake Health Center (KHC).

“Our nursing department is in touch with public health nurses, and although it is always concerning when loved ones are ill, especially our children, the situation is not alarming,” said KHC executive director Teiawenhniseráhte Tomlinson.

“If your child experiences gastrointestinal symptoms, isolate them at home and inform the daycare. They have policies and procedures to follow.”

According to Scott Traylen, director of education at the Kanesatake Education Center, the situation has been on the radar of schools for a few weeks. He said that while there have not been many cases at Ratihén:te High School, a number of students have been affected at Rotiwennakéhte elementary school.

“I received a call from regional health yesterday about it,” said Traylen on Wednesday. “The fact that our students are on March break this week allayed their concerns considerably. They are monitoring this situation rather closely.”

According to Traylen, parents of schoolchildren will be informed of the situation when students return from March break.

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door