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Food apparently is not the culprit in the illness that spread out of a volleyball tournament at Clarence Central School last weekend, but some prior illness might be.

Jack Schwartz, an epidemiologist with the county Health Department, said Thursday that food has been ruled out as a likely cause for the 24-hour bug that buzzed through the approximately 240 players in a 16-team tournament Saturday because many of those who became ill reported eating nothing but food they had brought themselves.

But a new possibility has risen -- that some players who were already ill had brought the bug to the event. Some of the players were already ill at the tournament, vomiting in the locker rooms.

"Conjecture at this point is more likely something of an airborne source," Schwartz said Thursday. "And we are finding there were people ill as this was going on. Maybe it was just the nervousness of playing in a big event, but there were people vomiting in the locker room."

Schwartz said no solid conclusions would be drawn until interviews had been completed with all the athletes who were at the event.

By Thursday morning, 42 of the 93 who had been interviewed reported they had been ill. Of those, 31 said they had consumed no food or drink at the event other than what they had brought.

Schwartz said the illness appeared to be a 24-hour variety, and most of the students were returning to school by midweek.

Teams playing in the tournament came from Clarence, Orchard Park, St. Francis of Athol Springs, Williamsville South, Frontier, Lancaster, Canisius, Lake Shore, Iroquois, West Seneca West, Amherst, Maryvale, Cheektowaga, Eden, Hamburg and Spencerport, a Rochester-area school.

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