The Kane County Health Department is encouraging parents who have children sick with the norovirus infection to keep them home from school at least 24 hours after they are free of symptoms.
The health department confirmed a norovirus outbreak at Westfield Community School, 2100 Sleepy Hollow Road in Algonquin, on Friday. That day, 289 students, or over half the student population, was absent, according to Tom Schlueter, public information officer for the Kane County Health Department.
On Monday, a significant number of Westfield students stayed home but not nearly as many as Friday. Meanwhile, the McHenry County and Kane County health departments are not reporting a high number of absent students at schools other than Westfield.
"In checking our surveillance system, levels of illness in area schools are [at] about 10 percent, which is typical for this time of year," according to Debra Quackenbush, McHenry County Department of Health community information coordinator.
On Monday, 76 Westfield Community students were called in sick, which is 16 percent of the student population at Westfield, according to information provided by Schlueter in an e-mail response to Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Patch.
The health department first started investigating the outbreak on Thursday. That day, 129 students were absent from Westfield, according to Schlueter.
"Ten percent is the threshold to report," according to Schlueter. "We will continue to monitor the attendance until it drops below baseline."
Meanwhile, Schlueter said he has not heard of any other schools in the area experiencing a high number of abscenses due to the norovirus infection.
Parents are reminded to keep students with norovirus, most commonly referred to as the stomach flu, home from school 24 hours after they stop showing symptoms.
Symptoms of the norovirus infection include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, weight loss, malaise and low-grade fever. The Center for Disease Control website provides additional information on norovirus.
The Kane County Health Department provides the following tips for preventing the spread of the infection:
- Practice proper hand hygiene: Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 62 percent ethanol may be a helpful addition to hand washing, but they are not a substitute for washing with soap and water. See “Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives.”
- Take care in the kitchen: Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
- Do not prepare food while infected: People who are infected with norovirusshould not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.
- Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces: After an episode of illness, such as vomiting or diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label or a solution made by adding 5–25 tablespoons of household bleach to 1 gallon of water.
- Wash laundry thoroughly: Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or fecal matter. Handle soiled items carefully—without agitating them—to avoid spreading virus. They should be laundered with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dried.