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Norovirus Outbreak Causes School Closings

In both the United States and abroad, the norovirus is making its way through school children. The Mesa County Valley School District 51 in Colorado closed all 46 of its schools, which serves more than 22,000 students, due to an outbreak of the virus. In northeast England, around 60 schools reported absences due to illness, and many of them closed their doors to undergo a deep clean after more than 300 students and facility members fell ill. According to Public Health England, norovirus rates are up 26% from this time last year

norovirus

Noroviruses are the leading cause of gastroenteritis — or stomach flu — in the US. They generally cause a nasty infection that leads to diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting within 24-48 hours of exposure. Norovirus is spread through direct contact with an infected person as well as through contaminated food and water. Though the symptoms can be quite debilitating, most people recover on their own within a few days. Those most at risk of complications (typically dehydration) are infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

The Mesa County Health Department released a statement explaining, “We’re hearing reports that a person might feel just fine, and in less than an hour’s time have a vomiting episode, sometimes in public places. That’s causing the further spread of the illness and making it more concerning than a typical gastrointestinal virus, much like norovirus.”

This is the first time the school district has closed due to illness. Tanya Marvin, the school district’s nursing coordinator, added, “We are taking this highly unusual action because this virus is extremely contagious and spreading quickly across our schools. In addition, it appears that there is now a second, related virus that is affecting students, some of whom have already been ill in recent weeks. The combination of the two has created an unprecedented spread of illness.”

Your best defense against the stomach flu is to watch your hands, avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose, and avoid sharing things like utensils and drinking glasses. Preventing the stomach flu also involves keeping your immune system healthy and strong.