Cause of School Illnesses Identified, Parents Warned

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RENO, NV – The Washoe County Health District has released new information about the illness going around local elementary schools and some daycares.

According to the district, the illness that has sickened hundreds of local elementary school children is norovirus and sapovirus. The viruses are highly contagious. Symptoms include nausea, stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Norovirus has been responsible for similar outbreaks in Washoe County before, but this is the first time sapovirus has been identified as one of the contributing causes to a gastro-intestinal illness outbreak in our community.

District Health Officer Dr. Joseph Iser says it’s time to step up in the fight against these illnesses. “We can be a little more aggressive with our efforts to end the outbreak. The school district has been following our requirements to exclude sick children from classes and to use specific cleaning procedures when a child is sick at school. The only requirement we are enhancing to better control the outbreak is to add stomach aches to the symptoms for exclusion from school.”

The Health District now requires all sick students, staff and faculty stay home for at least 24 hours if they are nauseous or have a stomach ache. If the symptoms go away in that time, they can return to school. However, if there are additional symptoms like fever, vomiting or diarrhea occur, then the affected person must be out of school for 72 hours after the last symptoms are present.

Due to the highly contagious nature of this illness, health officials strongly urge infected people to avoid contact with other community members as much as possible.

Iser said, “We know this is highly contagious as evident in its rapid spread in several elementary schools. We have also seen small clusters in some area daycares. And although those facilities are complying with our directives, unless we successfully engage the entire community in remaining vigilant with good hygiene, appropriate sanitation, and limited contact with sick people, it will be hard to slow down the virus’ progress.”

If someone in your house has been sick, you need to take steps to clean and sterilize. Sanitation requirements for schools and recommendations for households where vomiting or diarrhea has occurred is to clean the immediate and surrounding area with detergent and hot water prior to disinfecting the area with a mixture of ½ cup of bleach to a gallon of water.

Below are some links to help learn more about the viruses and how to fight them.