Home Health news Alabama elementary school shuts amid mystery stomach bug outbreak that’s forced 800 students and staff to stay at home

Alabama elementary school shuts amid mystery stomach bug outbreak that’s forced 800 students and staff to stay at home

by Editor

An elementary school in Alabama has been forced to close after nearly 800 children and half of its staff called in sick with a mystery stomach bug.

Fairhope West Elementary — which is the third largest primary in the county — has closed for the rest of the week while it undergoes a deep clean.

Worried parents — some filmed wearing face masks — told reporters the situation was ‘very alarming’ and that they had ‘never experienced’ this situation before.

State health officials are now investigating the outbreak but believe it is most likely caused by norovirus, a common stomach bug that is surging in the US. 

Phillis Spencer, who has grandchildren at the school, said the situation was ‘very alarming’

Fairhope West Elementary (pictured) is closed today and tomorrow for deep cleaning as officials attempt to get on top of the outbreak

Fairhope West Elementary (pictured) is closed today and tomorrow for deep cleaning as officials attempt to get on top of the outbreak

This virus is highly contagious, and easily spread by contact with feces-contaminated surfaces such as door handles and screens. 

Patients suffer symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea for a day or two — before symptoms subside.

Baldwin County Schools, which runs the elementary, said not all the students and staff away from their desks were actually sick — with many staying home to avoid catching the virus.

Testing is now being carried out by the Alabama Department of Health, with swabs distributed to patients. Results are expected to be reported within the next few weeks.

A nearby school, Fairhope East Elementary, has also said it is recording a surge in norovirus cases — with the principal saying she is ‘monitoring the situation’.

Nationwide, at least two other schools have had to close because of norovirus outbreaks — including in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Last month, two schools in Dallas, Texas, also had to close because of a gastrointestinal illness.

Diego Moreno, whose son goes to Fairhope West Elementary which goes up to sixth grade — or 12 years old — told reporters he had to take his son to the hospital.

‘Yesterday, our son have a vomiting during four or five times in the night, all the night.

‘And today, we are going to the hospital — and they told for us that a lot of kids is sick right now.’

Philis Spencer, whose grandchildren are at the school, also told reporters: ‘[This is] very alarming, very alarming.

Diego Moreno, who has a son at the school, said his child had been up vomiting four or five times during the night and that they took him to hospital

Diego Moreno, who has a son at the school, said his child had been up vomiting four or five times during the night and that they took him to hospital

Officials at the school believe the outbreak is being caused by norovirus

Officials at the school believe the outbreak is being caused by norovirus

‘I’ve never experienced this in all the years that I’ve had my own children and these grandchildren so… very alarming indeed.’

She was also filmed wearing a face mask as she rushed to the school to collect the youngsters.

Norovirus cases are surging nationwide, with 12 percent of swabs now detecting the virus compared to nine percent in November. 

Cases are rising fastest in the South, where the percentage of swabs detecting the virus is nearly 10 percent compared to seven percent last month.

And in the North East, where nearly 14 percent of tests in the region came back positive for norovirus at the start of February — up from around 4 percent in November before the outbreak started.

This data is based on swabs conducted on people in hospitals. 

The above shows how infections are rising rapidly in the southern United States, although they are still below the levels they were last year

The above shows how infections are rising rapidly in the southern United States, although they are still below the levels they were last year

The above graph shows the number of norovirus outbreaks recorded in the US this year (red line) compared to the last three years (blue-shaded area)

The above graph shows the number of norovirus outbreaks recorded in the US this year (red line) compared to the last three years (blue-shaded area)

Dr Andrea Garcia, a gastrointestinal diseases expert at the Americal Medical Association, said yesterday: ‘Nationally, norovirus positivity rates have really been hovering around 10 percent to 12.5 percent since early January.

‘Those cases do occur most frequently in colder months so late fall, winter and then early spring.’

Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler said in a message to parents: ‘Due to the amount of staff and students who are absent, the number who are experiencing symptoms, and in an effort to help contain the contagion, we unfortunately need to shut the building down.

‘While out, we will be conducting a deep cleaning of the school so when students return next week, it will be sanitized to the fullest extent.

‘We understand the inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your understanding. Please take care of yourself and your families.’

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