Norovirus continues to attack schools and hospitals – NoroCORE Food Virology

Norovirus continues to attack schools and hospitals

photo of school lockersThe norovirus trend continues- it seems like schools and hospitals just can’t catch a break this norovirus season. Over the past few days, yet another school watched half of its student body fall ill from the bug and more hospital wards closed to new admissions in the UK.

At least two other schools received media coverage due to norovirus outbreaks over the last month, with many more briefly mentioned in various reports.  In this significant instance, Pentucket Regional High School in Massachusetts was operating last Friday with slightly less than half of its student body present. On Thursday, well over 100 students reported to the school nurse with symptoms of illness, and the following day over 400 students were absent (and an additional 48 were sent home sick during the day). Athletic events were cancelled for Thursday night as the school underwent extensive cleaning, and parents were asked to keep sick students at home to help prevent further spread of the virus. For perspective, other school outbreaks we’ve blogged about in the past month have affected similarly large proportions of students: at an Arkansas middle school, over a third of the student body became ill, and one California elementary school experienced an absence rate four times its usual one.

The trend of UK hospitals slammed by the virus also continues to play out. Today, reports indicate that two wards at Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital have been closed to new patients after several cases of norovirus-like symptoms occurred (you guessed it, vomiting and diarrhea). These closures follow in a series of hundreds of wards affected by norovirus over the past several months. Estimates suggest that over 1 million cases of norovirus have occurred in the UK this season.

The sheer volume of norovirus cases cropping up in schools and hospitals is a vivid reminder of the ease with which norovirus can spread through these settings, and highlights the importance of taking simple preventive measures to reduce that spread:

-Stay home while ill.  Do not attend work or school, or visit the sick or elderly in hospitals and care facilities, while suffering from norovirus (and for a few days after recovery).

-Do not handle/prepare food for others while sick.

-Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water (do not rely on hand sanitizers alone).

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