A different scent will join the smell of lilacs, pines and campfires when Camp Pepin reopens Monday after a stomach virus swept through Farmington fifth-graders on their annual spring trek last week.
“It smells kind of bleachy out there, but the camp has been thoroughly sanitized and once again we’re ready for business,” Red Wing Family YMCA director Mike Melstad said Sunday.
The 78-year-old camp near Stockholm, Wis., along Lake Pepin, owned and run by the Red Wing YMCA, closed late last week after nearly 50 fifth-graders contracted what health officials suspect was a flu-like norovirus. Stool samples should confirm that this week.
Carson Blasing, 11, was among the kids from Akin Road Elementary School who got sick.
“He told me, ‘Mom, I had an absolute blast until I got sick,’ ” his mother, Nicole Blasing, said Sunday. “He vomited six times before my husband could complete the hour-and-half drive to come pick him up.”
The school’s principal, Laura Pierce, said no accurate number of sickened students can be pinpointed because some children simply reported feeling nauseated. But she said students with similar symptoms — vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and fever — had been reported throughout the district before the Camp Pepin outbreak.
Health officials believe a child with the virus brought it to the camp and infected others late Tuesday night. Carson and dozens of others became sick on Wednesday, just as a second batch of fifth-graders from North Trail Elementary School cycled in for their three-day excursion.
By late Thursday, as more kids became ill, the camp was closed. Cabins and common areas were scoured with bleach and a professional cleaning company was brought in Friday for a fourth sanitizing session.
“The camp has done a fabulous job, making sure everything is clean and ready,” the principal said.
Nicole Blasing, Carson’s mom, echoed her support for Camp Pepin, which has been hosting Farmington fifth-graders for their annual rite-of-spring getaway for decades.
“They make it such a great experience with fun activities for kids, so there’s no pooh-poohing Camp Pepin, it’s just unfortunate my kid and so many others got sick,” Blasing said. “It’s … frustrating that another parent put a sick child on the bus — if your kid is sick, don’t send them off on school activities.” □