Norovirus strikes schools in OsakisIt hit hard and fast and hopefully, it’s over. A nasty virus struck Osakis schools Friday, November 6, and at its peak, sent 35 students home sick.
By: By Greta Petrich, Staff Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
It hit hard and fast and hopefully, it’s over.
A nasty virus struck Osakis schools Friday, November 6, and at its peak, sent 35 students home sick.
According to Douglas County Public Health, which responded after the school reported numerous students vomiting, the school was struck by Norovirus.
Norovirus infection, also known as Norwalk or Norwalk-like virus infection, is a group of viruses that cause the stomach flu with symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and some stomach cramping. The illness usually begins suddenly with the infected person feeling very sick. In most cases the sickness moves through the body fast with symptoms lasting about one or two days.
Todd Appel, Douglas County sanitarian, said the school followed protocol, contacting public health when it saw an unusually high number of kids with the same illness.
Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person – as simple as by touching a door knob – and you can become re-infected.
In the case of Osakis Public School, after symptoms appeared in the first child, it was quickly obvious others were already infected with reports of a lot of vomiting occurring throughout the school.
Osakis School Superintendent Gregg Allen, who was not at school Friday, said public health was very supportive by helping the school get through the illness.
Appel assured the public the virus was not caused by tainted food or a sick food service employee at the school.
“It just so happens with this illness if one sick person is in any close proximity with others, they will likely become infected,” he said. “Unfortunately, some of the little kids got sick in the classroom and others vomited in the hall. With this virus, a student walking by could easily become ill.”
During a scheduled in-service day Monday, November 9, Appel worked with the food service staff, custodians and school management, giving each group recommendations to lessen the number of sick children.
“Our focus was key point surfaces and sanitizing,” he said. “It turned out to be an excellent in-service day since we were able to clean everything without students around.” To avoid the use of shared utensils, the salad bar was closed down for a week and any common surfaces were cleaned and sanitized.
The district custodial staff even brought in extra help to disinfect walls, railings, stairs, carpets and completely sanitize the classrooms that had sick children to prevent further spreading of the virus.
In addition, teachers were instructed to emphasize hand washing, remind children to stay home if they are sick and ask students not to bring items from home that could be handled by others.
Appel said this is a key time to urge parents to keep their children home from school when they are sick and for 24 hours after the symptoms subside. Parents should also follow this rule if they work in the food industry and are ill or caring for an ill child.
While they’ve tried to pinpoint the source of the exposure, Allen said it’s not likely they’ll find it, considering the speed at which the virus struck.
Allen noted some parents elected not to send their children to school on Tuesday.
One week later, Appel said the school absences were down to a normal level.