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Santa Monica High School Student Dies of Unknown Illness Not Related to Recent Virus Outbreak


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By Jorge Casuso

February 13, 2017 -- A Santa Monica High School student died Saturday of an unknown illness that is not thought to be related to the suspected Norovirus outbreak that forced the closure of a district middle school earlier this month.

Kelly Cano, an 18-year-old senior and member of Samohi's choir and swim team, died Saturday morning after a brief illness, according to Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District spokeswoman Gail Pinsker.

"We are saddened by this devastating news and our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this difficult time," Pinsker said in a statement.

Cano's mother, Sandra Cano, an SMMUSD school nurse, informed District officials that "doctors have stated that she passed away of an unknown medical condition, not thought to be related to Norovirus," Pinsker said.

"We did have assurances from her mother directly," Pisker told the Lookout Monday. "She wanted to make sure the community was aware" her daughter's death was unrelated to the virus outbreak.

Eighty students and ten teachers at John Adams Middle School (JAMS) were afflicted with a gastrointestinal illness after a field trip to Yosemite, forcing the closure of the school February 3 ("Possible Norovirus Still Present in Santa Monica-Malibu Schools," February 10, 2017).

A few cases also were detected at Samohi, Pinsker said, but she added that "there is no public health issue at Santa Monica High School that should make parents hesitate to send their kids to school."

Pinsker said an autopsy would be conducted, but that the district is not privy to the cause of death and would respect the family's privacy.

Pinsker called "erroneous" a media report tying Cano's death to the death last October of Samohi 10th grader Vanai Jelks after an undetermined illness.

"It is very sad that Samohi has lost two students suddenly in the past few months, due to medical conditions," Pinsker said.

"There is absolutely no connection. Both are unfortunate sad tragedies."

As is the case with Cano, the school is not privy to the cause of Jelks' sudden death and is respecting the privacy of the family, Pinsker said.

Counseling will be available to students in the Samohi library Monday, and as needed this week.

"We are working closely with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and take their guidance on all public health issues," Pinsker said.

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