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Norovirus Outbreak May Have Affected Up To 500 Students In Ventura County

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A norovirus outbreak in an Oxnard-area school district may have caused as many as 500 students to fall ill, reports the Ventura County Star.

The outbreak is largely contained within the Rio School District, which has more than 5,000 students among its eight schools. Symptoms first started cropping up a little more than a week ago. In the past nine days, approximately 500 students in the district have shown symptoms. According to CBS, the bulk of the cases centered around Rio Plaza Elementary. Though the district would not say how many children, exactly, were affected by the virus there, CBS reports that the outbreak may be subsiding, as cases at the school have fallen to double digits.

A smaller outbreak also struck Oak Park High School on the other side of Ventura County; there, seven students reportedly came down with symptoms of norovirus, though the cases have yet to be confirmed. Kevin Buchanan, principal of the high school, told KTLA that the campus had undergone an extensive sanitation effort; classrooms, desks, lockers, and the cafeteria were all cleaned. “We’re being very aggressive with our response so this doesn’t spread,” Buchanan told KTLA. “We know norovirus can spread very very quickly. It’s highly contagious so we want to knock it down as soon as we can.”

Norovirus, regarded as highly contagious, can spread through food, contact with an infected person, and contact with contaminated surfaces. "There is not really any hope in finding the source in a school outbreak like this," Dr. Robert Levin, a public health officer with Ventura County, told the Star.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common symptoms of a norovirus infection include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Other (less common) symptoms include fever and body aches. A person usually shows signs of an infection about 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to the virus. Most people get better within 3 days after symptoms crop up. The major concern with norovirus is that it can lead to dehydration if a person is throwing up or is suffering from diarrhea. Symptoms of dehydration include a decrease in urination and a dry mouth and throat.

The virus may spread quickly in closed-in spaces— these may include schools, nursing homes, and cruise ships. The CDC says that norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the U.S.