Norovirus was first identified in a school outbreak back in the late 1960’s, and in the last week there have been at least four notable norovirus-like outbreaks at academic institutions. In each case, the facility has had a thorough cleaning, and officials have advocated for handwashing and keeping sick students home.
Classes at Avon Old Farms School, a boarding school for boys in Connecticut, were cancelled today, as were some sporting events and other activities, after about fifteen percent of the student body of 400 became sick. The families of the boys were notified they could have their sons go home over the weekend to get over their illness or reduce their chances of getting sick, or have the students stay and be cared for if needed by extra medical staff at the health center and dorms. Housekeeping staff have also been putting in extra hours to disinfect the campus and self-serve food areas.
Celina Elementary School in Texas has also had students and staff with tummy troubles, and the school district sent a message home with the students last week concerning the outbreak. A hundred students were out last Friday, and about 207 were absent that day in the district, though it is hard to know how many were ill, as several parents decided to keep their children home as a precaution. The district is asking that sick children be kept home until 24 hours after their symptoms resolve.
Something very similar was happening at the same time at the W.C. Britt Elementary School in Snellville, Georgia. At least 102 children stayed home Friday, followed by another 25 who went home early, out of a student body of almost 600. The principal sent out a letter to parents on Thursday saying the culprit was believed to be norovirus, and the health department has visited the school, while workers have been sanitizing the school, classrooms, and buses.
Noroviruses like students of any age (or any place where people gather, for that matter), and around 200 students and staff at Ursinus College in eastern Pennsylvania were also sick with gastrointestinal symptoms last week. At least 20 of those students went to the emergency room or urgent care. According to reports, most of the students became ill after dinner on Tuesday, and a common link is that it appears all of the affected students ate at the dining hall. The college temporarily closed part of its dining hall for cleaning and had limited food service. The Montgomery County Health Department just determined norovirus to be the cause today, with two samples testing positive for the virus. Classes had been cancelled last Thursday afternoon and Friday, then the College had a thorough cleaning over the weekend and classes are back in session today.
For more information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has excellent tips on preventing norovirus infections, and we’re working on some guidelines for norovirus outbreaks in schools.