Mystery Illness Spreads Across Greenbrier UPDATE: Down To 62

The Depot Banner Ad Smokey Barn News, August 9th 2013 Greenbrier, TN Robertson County


norovirus squareAccording to Shelley L. Walker Assistant Director, Communication and Media Relations for the Tennessee Department of Health, the Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed an outbreak of norovirus in Robertson County, with more than 100 people reporting illness so far.

TDH continues to investigate this outbreak, and at this point has not identified the source of the illness.  TDH does expect to hear of more people who have become ill, but there is no indication of ongoing transmission of the virus in the community. Tennessee Department of Health indicates that this does NOT mean we have confirmed 100 cases of norovirus.

Walker also told Smokey that “the norovirus is highly contagious, and is commonly passed person to person. It can be spread in a number of ways, including from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces.”

To learn more about Norovirus,  CLICK HERE


Smokey Barn News, August 9th 2013 Greenbrier, TN Robertson County

UPDATE (EARLIER TODAY)Mystery Illness Spreads Across Greenbrier, TN: 

Though we still don’t have a culpret the numbers are comming down. 

Schools are all open today despite the strange sickness that has affected a good number of faculty members at several schools in Greenbrier.

Yesterday (Thursday) the number of faculty affected by the strange illness was 86, today it was down to 62, so it seems the numbers are coming down. Linda Cash, the assistant director of Robertson County Schools said “That’s very good news, we’re hoping to be back to normal soon.”

Robertson County Director of Schools Mike Davis  is still convinced the culprit is “contaminated food” that was served to employees on Tuesday. The sandwiches were delivered to Greenbrier Elementary, Greenbrier Middle, Greenbrier High and Wataugua Elementary.

According to Cash, this past Wednesday all of the teachers were together at a meeting held at Springfield High.  So that’s all the teachers in the county separated into two groups all in the same building at the same time, if it were a virus you would expect that it would have spread evenly throughout the school system, but it has not Cash said.

Cash also said everyone’s working together as a team, stepping in to help out until they are back to normal. Other than substitute teachers they are using coaches and several central office administrators to cover the teaching positions as well.

The health department is still investigating but that doesn’t stop the theories from flying. So far the theories Smokey has heard are: it’s the food, it was a virus on the food containers, it’s just normal sickness, it’s part of a the nation wide contamination of some kind of fruit or lettuce. What’s your theory?

Jim Ball reporting

Below is Smokey’s original report with an interesting video of a nurse eating the actual sandwiches in question.

Smokey Barn News, August 8th 2013 Greenbrier, TN Robertson County

Mystery Illness Spreads Across Greenbrier, TN:  VIDEO REPORT CLICK HERE

This is a developing story but we will give you what we have. Starting early in the week Smokey started receiving a few emails about an illness spreading across Greenbrier that looked like food poisoning. The symptoms people were reporting were diarrhea, upset stomach and vomiting.  iPhone/iPad users click on photo to play video

Play VIDEOAs we went into Wednesday evening and Thursday the reports of sick people started escalating quickly. It seems that Greenbrier schools are the hardest hit with 12 at one school and 7 at another school including other staff members according to Mike Davis, the new Director of Schools  for Robertson County. Greenbrier Elementary, Greenbrier Middle, Greenbrier High and Watauga Elementary schools are the ones that have been affected. Davis indicated that classes have been covered by substitute teachers.

Several hours later after some research by the Davis the number climbed to 86 faculty members reporting symptoms but that number included cases from earlier in the week.  Davis also stated, “We believe it is a food contamination from a local chain” The food was part of a welcome lunch provided to the teachers in Greenbrier to kick off the new year.

The number of cases seems to have leveled off, according to Davis and most of the cases reported are from people that ate the sandwiches. So far (what ever it is) it has not transferred to the students. “It seems that they had to consume it in order to be affected.” Davis said.

Davis also said the “local chain” was investigated by the health department thoroughly and there is an ongoing investigation but as we understand it nothing was found at the chain.

Initially the reports we received were that people believed the cause was food poisoning, but due to the slow progression of the illness one official (Greenbrier Mayor Billy Wilson) thinks it looks more like a virus. “Food poisoning takes about 6 hours, whatever this is, is moving much slower.” Wilson said.

Many initial reports indicated it may possibly be connected to a Subway in Greenbrier. We contacted Subway and spoke to the Manager Andy Patel and and he said, “The health department was there checking everything yesterday and everything is good, I don’t know what happened, some people say they ate turkey, some say chicken and some people say it was the lettuce but the health department came and checked out everything”

Leslie King a Nurse Practitioner at Community Quick Care says she’s been dealing with a lot of patients that have presented with symptoms since last week. She’s convinced it’s a virus not food poisoning. She said that her and her staff have eaten sandwiches from the same Subway and from the same batch of sandwiches and they have not developed symptoms. Community Quick Care paid for and had the sandwiches delivered to the schools for the teachers first day back. They kept a tray for themselves and have been eating them throughout the week since Tuesday.

She also said food poisoning and stomach viruses can look similar with nausea and diarrhea. We have people from many locations reporting it and she’s very confident it’s a virus and not food poisoning. King also said the symptoms seem to be lasting 24 to 48 hours.

According to Greenbrier Mayor Billy Wilson his wife has the same symptoms and she has had no contact with the food.

Leslie King said that kids were showing symptoms as early as last week so the teachers may have been exposed that way.

Dr Matt Browning of Well Now Urgent Family Care of Springfield, said he has seen an increase in viral gastroenteritis (stomach bug) cases in the last week. At least one case was severe enough to be sent to Northcrest Hospital.

Shelley L. Walker, Assistant Director, Communication and Media Relations with the Tennessee Department of Health,   said “we are looking into several reports of illness from Robertson County, and have not yet identified a source of the illness.”

Smokey will provide more information as it becomes available. If it seems we were a tad slow reporting this story, we were presented with lots of information on this story, we wanted to filter through it all and speak to officials to give you the the most accurate info as possible as to not cause a panic.

What would be helpful is for you to report in comments below if you or anyone you know have developed symptoms.

Jim Ball reporting


Several employees in the Greenbrier Cluster of schools reported that they became ill after consuming food from a local chain restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 6. The employees appeared to have symptoms that may have come from food contamination, however that has not yet been confirmed by the Tennessee Department of Health.

Additional precautions have been taken and the school system will continue to monitor the situation and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our students and employees.

For current health information regarding the schools call 384-4504



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Comments (2)

  1. Shelia Osborne August 9, 2013
  2. Ray Pulley August 9, 2013