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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