By Jeff Smith, NBCDFW.com
Students at one North Texas high school say they're terrified about being in class Monday after hundreds of students fell ill from a mysterious stomach bug at Richardson High School last week.
The Richardson Independent School District was able to confirm that 26 staff members called in sick Monday. Final attendance numbers for students will not be available until later in the day.
Students that were in attendance Monday were prepared. Many brought hand sanitizer while others said they planned to visit the bathroom between classes to wash their hands.
"I've got my hand sanitizer, and just being careful. Not sharing food or anything like that," Watson said. "Try to avoid being in close contact with people this week."
Richardson High School administrators said the mystery illness isn't the flu and they don't believe it's from the cafeteria food.
School administrators and the county health department are still trying to figure out what's behind last week's illness.
Students started up a Twitter hashtag about the mysterious virus, called "#RHSPlague," and are trying to make light of the situation with jokes like, "More Plague = Better Parking."
But for school administrators and affected students, it's no laughing matter. Hundreds of students were violently ill over the weekend — symptoms included vomiting, dehydration and exhaustion.
"It is scary, it really is, for that many kids to get sick at one time," said Demetrius Price, who had to pick up his freshman son from the nurse's office at lunchtime Friday.
Price said the nurse's office was "overrun" with hundreds of sick students.
Last Monday, 203 students and 12 Richardson High School staff members were out sick.
By Thursday, 349 students were home sick and 22 school employees. An additional 70 students went home during the day, including Price's son.
"My son had a cold a few weeks ago, during that cold snap. But nothing serious. This right here was so different," Price said. "It put him on the couch. His energy was low. His appetite was gone. He kept feeling like he had to throw up. I don't know what it is. I was worried he was going to get real dehydrated."
More than 675 students, about a quarter of the school's total student population of 2,500, missed class Friday along with 28 staff members.
"It was just really weird. It was like a ghost town," said high school senior Jenny Watson.