Norovirus responsible for illness at Beartooth Elementary

2011-09-13T16:12:00Z 2011-09-14T00:45:03Z Norovirus responsible for illness at Beartooth Elementary

By CINDY UKEN

Of The Gazette Staff

The Billings Gazette
September 13, 2011 4:12 pm  • 

Norovirus is being blamed for causing the illness of more than 200 pupils last week at Beartooth Elementary, RiverStone Health officials confirmed Tuesday.

State health lab testing identified the virus in the sick children. The source of the virus at the school, however, has not been identified.

“The confirmed presence of norovirus with so many sick children in one location certainly makes it likely that the virus was responsible for the widespread illness,” Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton said.

Norovirus usually produces symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea for 24 to 48 hours and generally goes away with no medical treatment. Norovirus is spread from person to person by touching contaminated surfaces or consuming contaminated food or water.

“It is extremely important that parents and teachers remind children to exercise proper hand washing for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water, especially before and after meals, to help minimize the spread of diseases such as norovirus,” Felton said. “Additionally, sick children should be kept home from school.”

About 230 students were absent Friday, up from the 100 who called in sick or went home sick Thursday. On average, about 40 students are absent each day at the school. Nearly 460 children make up the student body at Beartooth.

District custodians cleaned the school Thursday and gave it a second scrub down during the weekend.

RiverStone Health, the county’s public health agency, sent an environmental health sanitarian to the school to investigate and sent stool samples from sick students to the state health laboratory.

Attendance returned to normal Monday, but RiverStone Health officials continue to monitor the situation.

Contact Cindy Uken at cuken@billingsgazette.com or 657-1287.

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