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California County Reports Almost 1,000 Cases Of Norovirus In Schools: Details On The Outbreak So Far

16 May 2017, 12:16 am EDT By Alexandra Lozovschi Tech Times
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Health experts urge parents to keep sick children at home as the norovirus outbreak in California now totals more than 950 confirmed cases. Thirty-two schools in Yolo County have reported norovirus infections, affecting both students and their teachers.  ( Pexels )

The recent norovirus outbreak in Yolo County schools has totaled more than 950 confirmed cases so far, health officials reported on Friday, May 12.

The outbreak affected students as well as school teachers and staff alike, says the report, which states all of them exhibited norovirus signs and symptoms, such as stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.

Specimen testing carried out in six school districts revealed the California county is indeed facing a norovirus problem, which is deemed as highly contagious.

"The number of sick people is increasing every day at a very alarming rate," said county health officials in a statement.

Norovirus Found In 32 Yolo County Schools

According to the Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency, the norovirus outbreak has affected 32 schools in Yolo County.

The number of norovirus cases has reached 434 in the Woodland Joint Unified School District, while 181 other people have been infected with the gastrointestinal virus in the Davis Joint Unified School District.

The gastrointestinal illness also occurred in smaller county school districts, with Esparto Unified reporting 49 cases, whereas Winters Joint Unified and UC Davis both tackled under 40 norovirus cases. The two school districts reported 39 and 32 infections, respectively.

An additional 217 cases were found in Washington Unified School District, although the district spokesman notes this number may be reflecting all school absences, and not just those related to the norovirus illness.

Yolo County spokeswoman Beth Gabor believes the virus has spread to such great lengths because parents failed to comply with the two-day home rest period and sent their children to school too soon after the infection ensued.

"The message is good hygiene and staying home 48 hours after the symptoms have resolved are crucial," Gabor points out.

Strategies To Curb The Norovirus Outbreak

Reports of norovirus case in California started in the beginning of May, when 33 students and five teachers in Sacramento County first came down with the virus. At the time, three schools in Elverta were closed after the norovirus outbreak was identified.

Since then, the number of cases continued to grow, and now health officials are urging Yolo County residents to take measures in preventing the spread of the virus.

Norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States. Each year, the virus accounts for 19 to 20 million cases of acute gastroenteritis — the inflammation of the stomach and the intestines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn norovirus leads to nearly 71,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths every year, mostly among young children and the elderly.

The best way to thwart the infection is through proper hand hygiene, by frequently washing hands with soap throughout the day.

Norovirus particles are both foodborne and airborne, which is why health experts caution people not to cook or handle food if they are sick, and to stay at home 48 hours after the symptoms are gone, as they can be contagious for at least three days after being sick.

Ron Chapman, the county's Public Health Officer, advises parents to notify the school if their children have contracted the virus and to keep them at home until symptoms subside.

Because norovirus also spreads by touching contaminated surfaces, regularly cleaning them with appropriate disinfectant, such as bleach, is highly advisable.

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