Friday, November 5, 2010

Norovirus outbreak at central PA school

A central Pennsylvania school was shut down due to viral gastroenteritis and norovirus is expected.  Norovirus is highly contagious and thus has resulted in large outbreaks in confined populations such as on cruise ships, summer camps, nursing homes, etc.  The school was shut down in order to perform a thorough sanitation.

A few facts about norovirus:

-       Low infectious dose, approximately 10 to 100 viral particles are sufficient to cause disease.  It also has a high attack rate of 50 to 70%.  These, combined with environmental stability, lead to large outbreaks.

-       Resistant to drying, thus can remain on a surface for weeks.  In one case, virus remaining in carpeting caused illness 12 days later.  Also resistant to refrigeration and freezing.

-       Resistant to 3  to 6 mg chlorine/ L (as used in drinking water), but inactivated at 10 mg chlorine/L

-       Symptoms of projectile vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea will appear as soon as 12 hours after exposure and then last 12 to 60 hours.  Dehydration is a always a concern.

-       “Projectile vomiting is a characteristic symptom that can contribute to secondary spread through droplet infection, where droplets containing virus may contaminate surfaces or be swallowed”.

-       People with illness shed large numbers of virus in their feces and continue to shed virus for up to 2 weeks following illness.

-       Because of genetic variability, people can get norovirus infections many times in their lifetime.

-       Ready-to-eat food is a common vector for norovirus, when an infected foodservice employee contaminated the food during handling.  Thus the regulation for gloves when working with RTE foods.  So glove usage, handwashing and good sanitation are keys in control of norovirus.  It is also important that employees with symptoms of illness (vomiting or diarrhea) or who have been diagnosed with the illness, be excluded from food operations.

-       (source Viruses in Foods, 2006)

P-O Junior High to be closed Friday due to student illnesses

By Lauren Boyer Centre Daily Times

November 4, 2010 7:09pm EDT

More than 100 student absences and complaints of upset stomachs Thursday prompted district officials to cancel school Friday at Philipsburg-Osceola Junior High.
At 1 p.m. Thursday, students were dismissed from the building, normally attended by about 300 seventh and eighth graders, said district spokeswoman Dena Cipriano.
The district is communicating with state Department of Health about best practices and symptoms experiences by students. Cipriano said those symptoms correlate with symptoms that are typical of novoviruses.
Highly contagious, noroviruses cause the “stomach flu,” or gastroenteritis, which leads to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping, according to a state Department of Health fact sheet. The district provided a link to the fact sheet on its website, as part of the announcement of the closing of the junior high.
The Department of Health did not recommend closing the building. That was a precaution taken by the district, Cipriano said.
Before classes resume Monday, the custodial staff will “sanitize the building top to bottom” and replace products like toilet paper and paper towels, Cipriano said.
All other buildings in the district will remain open today, and the MoValley YMCA Youth Theatre Production will still be held today and Saturday at the Junior High School.

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