School norovirus outbreak teaches a helpful lesson about biosecurity – NoroCORE Food Virology

School norovirus outbreak teaches a helpful lesson about biosecurity

colorful chalk on a chalkboard

You may have seen a headline in the last couple of days about a school norovirus outbreak that was “linked” to a salad bar at the school. In reading deeper, the local health department temporarily closed the salad bar because they realized the utensils and surfaces of the salad bar were high touch areas, and as such it may have been contributing to the spread of the virus. But these public health officials did not cite it as the actual cause of the outbreak :-).

According to news reports, the first child with norovirus-like symptoms went home last Monday, and by Friday, two hundred students, or about half of the student body, called in sick. The school underwent two deep cleanings, and focus was placed on disinfecting all hard surfaces on the premises. Parents with sick children were also advised to keep their kids home for at least 48 hours after their children felt better to prevent spreading the virus. All in all, it was very much in keeping with what we see for other school norovirus outbreaks.

We are highlighting this school outbreak because good infection control begins with thinking about biosecurity, and the health officials and school administration placed importance on disinfecting the entire school. Realizing the salad bar could be a means of spreading the virus, they gave it attention, as well as the other hard surfaces that could be disinfected, and on isolating sick individuals. Bravo on combating two arms of the epidemiologic triad!

The epidemiologic triad

As a humorous aside, we have heard about some questionable prevention measures in our monitoring of school outbreaks. This author once heard a news reporter visiting an affected school say on camera that kids could catch norovirus by touching a contaminated surface and putting their fingers in their ears, which was new to us. We’ve seen news videos of schools wrapping their water fountains in plastic, not because they were trying to keep kids from touching contaminated fountain handles, but because they thought the virus was in the water supply (but only in the water in the fountains), which would have been very atypical in this country, and a case study worth publishing. On the plus side, it is quite possible that covering the fountains did limit the spread of the virus, so A for effort.


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