Public health officials in Nevada are looking forward to the upcoming fall break in the hopes of limiting the spread of the norovirus in schools within the state.

The health district in Washoe County has reportedly stopped keeping count of the number of norovirus infections after cases quadrupled in recent days.

The outbreak has now afflicted around 1,760 staff members and students at 20 different schools. Several daycare centers have also fallen victim to the spread of the infection.

People infected with the norovirus typical develop symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Randall Todd, epidemiology director at Washoe County, said that the scheduled school break in the fall will help students infected with the virus to keep out of school for the 72-hour recommended period following the development of the infection.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed that fall break will give us the boost we need to put this behind us," Todd said.

Health officials have provided the School District of Washoe County and the families of students with guidelines on how to help prevent the spread of the norovirus in affected schools, particularly in Sparks, Spanish Springs and northern Reno.

The health district refused to identify the daycare centers where outbreaks have also been detected.

School officials are advised to sanitize areas of the school where many students and staff members touch surfaces repeatedly, such as desks, railings, doors and chairs. Areas where vomiting incidents occur must also be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

The public is also advised to frequently wash hands with soap and water as antibacterial hand-sanitizers have been proven not effective at killing the norovirus.

Staff members and students diagnosed with the infection must be kept out of school for at least 72 hours following the development of their symptoms.

Todd explained that such an outbreak of infection would not have been possible if school staff and parents were able to follow the safety protocols recommended for schools.

He said it is the only possible explanation that they can come up with, asserting that it was not for lack of trying.

Despite the norovirus outbreaks, the health district has not advised the closing of affected schools. School officials have also decided against implementing such action for the sake of the students' academics.

Photo: AJ Cann | Flickr 

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