State IDs cause of illness that swept Bridport school

BRIDPORT — Vermont Department of Health officials on Friday confirmed the causes of a stomach bug that swept through the Bridport Central School community last week and ultimately forced the cancellation of classes on Thursday and Friday.
The Department of Health Laboratory confirmed norovirus in a sample voluntarily collected from a person who became ill at the school.
Moira Cook, Middlebury district director for the Department of Health, on Thursday said officials from her office were looking for evidence within the school and had reached out to teachers and students to get vomit and/or stool samples in an effort to pinpoint the illness that had affected 90 percent of the school’s 80 students — along with several adults — by Wednesday.
ACSU Superintendent Gail Conley said a majority of students did not show up for classes on Wednesday, March 6. When additional students had to be sent home, Conley made the decision to close the school for the balance of the week.
Cook explained that norovirus is a virus that can be transmitted via food, commonly touched surfaces and person-to-person contact. Symptoms include stomach discomfort, diarrhea and vomiting.
“Fortunately, it is a pretty short-lived illness,” Cook said on Thursday. “A lot of the kids are recovering and feeling better. Hopefully, everyone will be well and back in school on Monday.”
Norovirus — the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — usually resolves within 24 to 60 hours after exposure, Health Department officials said.
As of Thursday, Cook did not believe the virus was spread by food at the Bridport school.
“From what we understand, (school) staff who have come down with this did not eat at the cafeteria,” she said.
“If you have become sick from norovirus, you should stay home from work or school, refrain from preparing meals for others, and stay hydrated,” said Bradley Tompkins, infectious disease epidemiologist for the Health Department. “People who were sick can continue to shed the virus for several days after they have recovered, so continuing to properly wash your hands with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom, is important to help stop the spread of the disease.”
Cook added that people should also clean high-traffic surfaces where others have experienced norovirus, in order to avoid contracting the virus.
The norovirus was named after Norwalk, Ohio, where it was identified as the culprit behind an outbreak of gastroenteritis at an elementary school in 1968. According to the website medicalnews.net, the sickness caused by norovirus is sometimes called “winter vomiting bug.”

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