Suspected Norovirus Outbreak in Colorado Closes 46 Schools—Here's What You Should Know About the Illness
In gut-churning news, 46 schools in the Grand Junction, Colorado district, will be closed until after Thanksgiving break due to suspected outbreak of the highly contagious norovirus, according to the AP.
The outbreak was first reported at the high school, and then spread to other schools in the district, which is home to more than 22,000 students, according to the report. Officials also believe there is now an additional strain of the virus affecting some students who were previously sick.
“We are taking this highly unusual action because this virus is extremely contagious and spreading quickly across our schools,” district nursing coordinator Tanya Martin said.
“The decision to close is the right move,” Mesa County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Kuhr said in a statement. “Past experience with these types of viruses tell us having a period of time away from close person-to-person contact can be instrumental in these illnesses running their course. This will give those buildings a window to disinfect and start fresh after the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Kuhr told The New York Times that sick students had been vomiting on the floors of classrooms and hallways, because they weren’t able to make it to the bathroom on time. “It was pretty out of control,” Kuhr said. “If all the stars align, norovirus could really wreak havoc on a community. It just feels like that right now.”
During the break, custodians, who are among those who have been infected, will have to disinfect all surfaces to prevent the spreading of the virus.
Wait, what is norovirus anyway?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Norovirus is an extremely contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Anyone can get infected and sick with norovirus, and it is most common during the winter months, from November to April.
It is usually spread by having direct contact with an infected person, consuming contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces then putting your unwashed hands in your mouth.
The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Other symptoms can include fever, headaches, and body aches. After being exposed to norovirus, symptoms usually come on quite quickly—about 12 to 48 hours later, but most people with norovirus find that their symptoms improve within one to three days (though you may still be contagious even after your symptoms clear up). While there is no treatment for norovirus, hydration is incredibly important, as vomiting and diarrhea commonly lead to dehydration.
Basically, it's exactly zero fun. Luckily, there are ways to reduce your chances of catching the virus, according to the CDC, including washing your hands often (like after using the bathroom and before meals), thoroughly rinsing fruits and vegetables, avoiding preparing food for others when you're sick, and staying sick and for two days after symptoms stop.