Norovirus Outbreak In Staten Island School

Hundreds of children at PS 3 in Pleasant Plains, Staten Island in New York, were recently forced to stay home from school over concerns of a <"">Norovirus outbreak, Staten Island Live jut reported.

Staten Island Live said that about 250 students—the school is normally attended by 928 children—called in sick and about 50 people at the school left early due to sickness. It seems that last week, dozens of students were vomiting in class, some fell ill after going home, and students were plagued with vomiting nausea and diarrhea, said Staten Island Live. According to Department of Education (DOE) officials, the illness was identified as Norovirus.

“During the winter months, a virus called Norovirus spreads easily among school children, causing vomiting and diarrhea,” said Margie Feinberg, a DOE spokeswoman, quoted Staten Island Live. “Most people get better in one to two days,” Feinberg added.

According to Feinberg, letters discussing the virus were sent home with the children and explained how the virus can spread via touching contaminated surfaces, sharing food with someone who is contaminated with Norovirus, or ingesting contaminated food products, said Staten Island Live.

Norovirus, a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis are not helped with antibiotics. People become infected by eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with Norovirus; touching surfaces or objects contaminated with Norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth; and having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms. People may feel very sick and vomit many times a day. Sometimes people are unable to drink enough liquids to replenish the liquids lost due to vomiting and diarrhea and can become dehydrated and require special medical attention.

Norovirus, which can survive for weeks on surfaces at room temperature, can be difficult to eliminate, and can only be killed with chorine bleach. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and other preparations are not too helpful. Norovirus outbreaks occur frequently in closed populations.

Staten Island Live suggested frequent hand washing, cleaning surfaces that could have been contaminated by vomit or stool, and for children and workers to remain home if sickened, citing the letter.

Some parents, whose children are not presenting as ill, are keeping their children home for a few days to help ensure their children don’t come down with the virus. “If we’re going to talk about attendance or my daughter’s health, it’s going to have to be health,” said the mother of a fourth grader, quoted USA Today. “This is scary. This is something that’s really scary,” she added.

We recently wrote that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most food poisoning outbreaks are not only preventable, but could be minimized with better analysis and reporting, said WebMD Health News. Yet outbreaks of food-borne illnesses continue to sicken millions and kill thousands of Americans every year. According to the CDC, Norovirus was one of the leading causes of food borne disease outbreaks in 2006, the most current year in which statistics are available. WebMD noted that improved oversight and review could help isolate causes.

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