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Norovirus outbreak affects dozens of students, staff at Oak Park school

October 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A highly contagious stomach virus sickened dozens of staff members and students at Medea Creek Middle School in Oak Park. An all-out effort is under way to sanitize the school to further prevent the spread of any germs.

The Ventura County Health Department said the culprit was norovirus, which causes vomiting and other gastrointestinal issues. Laboratory results showed samples from affected students tested positive for the virus.

The department became aware of the outbreak when school officials reported an unusually high number of absences.

Principal Brad Benioff said there were a few sick students on Wednesday. The next day, 80 students didn't come to school, and by Friday, it was 150 students. On Tuesday, the number was down to 40 students. It's good news, but there's still reason to be cautious.

"It hits you suddenly, very suddenly," said parent Erin Kellingsworth.

It's unclear how many students stayed home due to illness and how many stayed home to avoid exposure to the virus. The virus can be transmitted from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. It is easily spread in places like schools or cruise ships, but fortunately, this outbreak has been limited to Medea Creek Middle School and hasn't spread throughout the district.

"We're having the staff wipe down all touchable surfaces," Benioff said.

Here are some ways to prevent the spread of norovirus:

  • Wash your hands carefully with soap and water
  • Use hand sanitizer in addition to hand-washing
  • Wash fruits and vegetables
  • Cook seafood thoroughly
  • Disinfect contaminated surfaces

School officials said anyone with symptoms should stay home until 48 hours after the symptoms clear. Most people who contract norovirus get better within one to three days.


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