Schools, county issue alert over pervasive virus

Cascade Locks School received a thorough cleaning overnight on Monday after rampant absenteeism due to an unidentified virus.

As much as half the student body missed school Friday and Monday, so the district sent in a team to sanitize all surfaces before students returned to school Tuesday.

Concerns over sanitary precautions apply to all schools, however, noted Tracy Willett, health officer with the county health department.

Willett said “The exact source of illness is unknown, but probably was from infectious persons,” and not food-borne sources.

“What we suspect is a possible norovirus outbreak, a common cause of viral gastroenteritis,” Willette said.

Noroviruses (genus Norovirus, family Caliciviridae) are the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) in the United States, as well as the most common recognized cause of outbreaks.

“We’re looking into it to see if there is anything there; going in and swabbing surfaces and make sure that is not the case; with a thorough cleaning tonight,” Supt. Charlie Beck said, adding that tests won’t come back for four or five days “but instead of waiting for that we’re going to be proactive, and everything is going to be washed down following health department guidelines.”

Willett said her department is asking providers throughout the county to be on the lookout for similar illness cases, and test for viruses and report the instances to the county.

At Cascade Locks, a team did “extensive disinfection” of the cafeteria, kitchen, bathrooms and classrooms, with a particular emphasis on tabletops and computer keyboards.

Janitorial staffs have been advised about appropriate use of cleaning products to kill norovirus (e.g., 1:10 bleach solution) and other viral/bacterial causes of acute vomiting/diarrhea.

Cafeteria sanitation and food-handling practices are under review, Willett said.

She emphasized that parents should wait until 72 hours after the last episode of diarrhea or vomiting before sending children back to school.

People with proven or suspected norovirus infection, or those caring for people or children (e.g., changing diapers) with proven or suspected norovirus infection, should be pay careful attention to excellent hand hygiene practices.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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