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Norovirus Outbreak Closes Long Beach Elementary School

A person seen from the knees down and wearing what look like green scrubs is pushing a blue mop across the floor. The floor is smoothy an reflective where it has just been cleaned, and a yellow bucket, also reflecting against the shiny floor, is in the background.
A solution of bleach and water must be used to kill the norovirus.
(Liudmila Chernetska
Getty Images/iStockphoto)
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A Long Beach elementary school has been ordered to close by the city's health department due to a nearly month-long outbreak of norovirus.

Health officials say 126 students and 10 staff at George Washington Carver Elementary have reported gastrointestinal symptoms since February 22.

Norovirus is an extremely contagious virus that causes sudden vomiting and diarrhea. It spreads through contact with contaminated food or water, sick people and surfaces. It is very common and not usually dangerous, though it can cause dehydration.

School officials at George Washington Carver Elementary first reported the situation to the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services on Feb. 22.

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Since then, the health department has made a number of recommendations, including keeping children in groups for recess and lunch, postponing communal and extracurricular activities, screening for symptoms and deep cleaning.

“We also provided information to the school on norovirus that includes information lowering the risk of getting sick. However, there’s evidence of ongoing transmission despite stringent control measures, which is why the school is closing temporarily,” said Long Beach health department spokesperson Jennifer Rice Epstein.

The temporary closure began March 17 and will allow for a deep cleaning of the school. Norovirus can survive for weeks on surfaces, such as desks, doorknobs, and toys, if not properly cleaned and disinfected. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer does not kill norovirus. Instead, a bleach and water solution must be used.

“Closing the school to conduct a deep cleaning is an outbreak management strategy. Each communicable disease outbreak is unique, so what action to take is decided by the City Health Officer on a case-by-case basis. No other schools are being investigated at this time,” said Rice Epstein.

Classes will resume Wednesday, March 22. Parents are urged to watch their children for symptoms and keep them home if they are sick.

Infected individuals are contagious as soon as they feel sick and can remain contagious up to 2 weeks. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for norovirus, however drinking fluids is important to replace fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhea.

People should contact their healthcare provider if they can’t keep food or water down or if their symptoms last more than three days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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