Workplace Medical Mystery: Camp Counselor IllnessPosted on by
Daniel was excited to have his first summer job working at a day camp in Iowa. He was happy to be working outside and with his friends. He and several other teenage counselors reported to work a week before camp started to get the facilities ready for the campers. The clean-up duties included raking leaves and giving the picnic tables, which had a season’s worth of accumulation, a good scrubbing with a mild disinfectant. They also dug fire pits, swept the dirt floor shelters, removed a few bird nests, and moved firewood. It was hard work but Daniel was happy to be earning a paycheck. May was unseasonably hot but the camp provided plenty of water and sunscreen. The camp also provided each counselor new camp t-shirts and a baseball hat.
When the campers arrived, they were assigned to a campsite with two counselors. The heat wave continued with temperatures in the low 90s. Daily activities included wilderness skill training; archery; outdoor games; and nature walks where they learned about local wildlife such as raptors, songbirds, small mammals and bats. Each day campers worked on a different arts and crafts project including tie-dye, bracelet making, building and painting birdhouses and Plaster of Paris castings. Lunch was provided by the camp and eaten at picnic tables under the shelters. Some days campers assisted the counselors with lunch preparation on wood-fired grills.
A few days after the campers arrived Daniel noticed he wasn’t feeling quite right. He had a headache and a cough. This was his first job and he didn’t want to call in sick but, after his second day with a fever, his mom made him stay home. When he called his boss he learned that several other counselors were experiencing similar symptoms. No one could figure out what was making the counselors sick. The camp owners were worried about the counselors and the possibility that the young campers could also become ill. They called in the county health department for assistance.
Check back on Friday for the next installment of Workplace Medical Mysteries to see what is making Daniel and the others sick. Think you know? Tell us what you think it is in the comment section below.
Julie Tisdale-Pardi, MA, is the Coordinator of the NIOSH Science Blog.
This blog is part of the NIOSH Workplace Medical Mystery Series. The names and certain personal details of the characters are fictitious and do not represent an actual person or persons.