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Cause of outbreak at Overland Park school identified

Shawnee Mission School District

Shawnee Mission School District

December 10, 2010

Defending against norovirus

People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least three days after recovery. Therefore, they said, it is particularly important for people to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from norovirus illness.

You can decrease your chance of coming in contact with noroviruses by following these preventive steps:

• Frequently wash your hands.

• Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.

• Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).

• Flush or discard any vomitus and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.

Additionally, persons who are infected with norovirus should not prepare food while they have symptoms and for at least 2-3 days after they recover from their illness.

The best way to prevent the spread of illness is hand washing. Disease can spread very rapidly when hands are not clean, and hand sanitizer doesn’t kill all germs that can make you ill.

Public health officials say they’ve pinpointed the cause of an outbreak that closed a Shawnee Mission USD 512 elementary school this week.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the cause of illness that affected nearly 200 students and staff members Thursday at Trailwood Elementary School was norovirus. The outbreak caused officials to close the Overland Park school Thursday and Friday. Classes are scheduled to resume Monday.

The Johnson County Health Department said noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis in people. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestines. Like all viral infections, noroviruses are not affected by treatment with antibiotics and cannot grow outside of a person’s body.

Norovirus illness symptoms usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel extremely sick. In most people the illness is self-limiting, with symptoms lasting for about one or two days.

Dehydration may occur if people are unable to drink enough liquids to replace the liquids they lose because of vomiting and diarrhea.

The Johnson County Health Department said people can become infected with the norovirus by:

• Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth, and

• Having direct contact with another person who is infected (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).

The health officials said noroviruses were contagious and could spread easily from person to person. Both stool and vomit are infectious. Particular care should be taken with young children in diapers who may have diarrhea.

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