(SIOUX CITY, IA) - Health officials on Tuesday said a Norovirus was to blame for an illness that sickened dozens of children and staffers at Bryant Elementary School last week.Tyler Brock with Siouxland District Health Department said laboratory tests detected Norovirus in several samples collected from people who got sick.
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. They're usually spread by food or water that's been contaminated with fecal matter, or through person-to-person contact.
Last Thursday, 47 students and three teachers at Bryant Elementary called in sick or went home early. 33 more students went home on Friday. The Health Department inspected the school and made recommendations on proper cleaning and food handling. It also surveyed the students and teachers who got sick.
We checked back in with one of those sick students, fourth grader Caleb Weber. He and his mom Cindy were preparing dinner Tuesday night with plenty of energy. It's a far cry from just a few days ago.
t might sound strange that many kids got sick all at once, but the Norovirus is actually pretty common. Usually, people just don't report it. Caleb went home sick last Wednesday and stayed home from Bryant Elementary School the rest of the week. Luckily, Norovirus only lasts a couple of days. So Caleb has his energy back playing ping pong, soccer and tennis. "I didn't panic as a parent because it's like you know this can happen. Right? A lot of kids are close together. It's like a little petri dish," said Caleb's mom, Cindy Weber. "It's really important to be diligent in the personal protection and just avoid the food contact when you're sick and things like that," said Brock.
We've heard it a million times. Hand-washing is key! Brock says he can't emphasize that enough. "I see a couple that actually do not wash their hands," said Caleb. "That's probably the most important thing you can do when you're in an environment with a lot of people so close together," said Cindy.
Sioux City Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Gausman says his staff has dealt with high volume sickness like H1-N1, but not around this time of year. "This is another opportunity not just at this school, but at all schools to talk to kids about hygiene and cleanliness," said Dr. Gausman. "We just try to make sure he's slept enough and then he wasn't overdoing it when he was recovering," said Cindy. "And not share your drinks and not share your food."
What Caleb can share is the energy he's regained after staying home avoiding the spread.
With the holiday weekend approaching, Brock said in a statement, "Graduation parties and Memorial Day gatherings are excellent opportunities for outbreaks to occur if care isn't taken to prevent the spread of this virus."
The easiest way to prevent the spread of Norovirus is to thoroughly wash hands after going to the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
Brock says it's important to understand the difference between the Norovirus and the flu. If you have flu-like symptoms after getting a flu shot, it's much more likely you have the Norovirus.