A norovirus outbreak hit Plymouth’s Rising Tide Charter Public School this week, affecting about 20 percent of students and staff members and forcing the school to close Friday, officials said.
The town’s public health department began investigating the virus Thursday, after 134 of 709 school members reported feeling ill that day, Public Health Director Nate Horwitz-Willis said. It’s the “largest drop in attendance [the school] has ever seen” and the “only time they’ve seen any outbreak sort of situation,” he said. The school includes about 650 students in grades 5 through 12.
The department later concluded the school should cancel classes Friday so it could “clean and disinfect the facility and the school bus transportation,” said a statement released by the public health department. The school staff plans on using a bleach solution to sanitize any contact surfaces, including desks, door handles, floors, and bathrooms where students vomited, Horwitz-Willis said.
”It’s very easy [to spread] when you have children who probably aren’t washing their hands all the time and they think a stomache or a sneeze is nothing,” he said.
Plymouth’s public health officials also recommended parents of students seek medical attention if they see any of the symptoms, which include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or severe headaches and abdominal pain, the statement said. The virus is considered a “contagious infection,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Winter is considered an opportune time for Norovirus, especially among those who are or become immunocompromised,” the statement said. “The determination was based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for Norovirus outbreaks and on the rate of absenteeism at Rising Tide.”
The school is expected to reopen on Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.Elise Takahama can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @elisetakahama.