A MYSTERIOUS EMISSION that caused eye irritations in more than 100 people during a cheerleading competition Sunday at Father Judge High School has baffled the city Health Department and will keep the school closed today.
"I don't know how to explain the feeling, but it felt like [my eyes] were on fire," parent Angela Milio told 6ABC, her eyes red and swollen.
"When we were at the gym they were just burning, and they just kept watering."
Milio and others had attended the daylong competition at the Father Judge gym, on Solly Avenue near Rowland, in the Northeast, and soon found themselves with itchy eyes.
About 150 people went to emergency rooms at four Northeast Philadelphia hospitals Sunday night and yesterday, according to the Health Department.
All had been in the same gym and all had similar symptoms: red, itchy and swollen eyes, said department spokesman James Garrow.
The eyes of most of the patients were washed out, and two of the hospitals decontaminated the patients, Garrow said.
Fire officials showed up at the school about 4:30 a.m. yesterday after finding out about the dozens of people who had gone to emergency rooms, said Kenneth Gavin, a spokesman with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Some initially suspected the irritation had been caused by chemicals released by a shattered light fixture in the auditorium, but officials ruled that out as a cause. City health officials and other authorities were still at the school yesterday trying to determine what caused the outbreak.
The school will remain closed today, Gavin said. Yesterday was a scheduled day off due to a teacher in-service day.