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October 29, 2012
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Washoe County health officials identify cause of viral school outbreak

RENO, Nev. - The cause of the gastro-intestinal illness that has sickened hundreds of local elementary school children has been identified as norovirus and sapovirus - both in the family of calicivirus, according to the Washoe County Health District.

The viruses cause nausea, stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhea, and they are highly contagious. While norovirus has been responsible for similar outbreaks in Washoe County before, this is the first time sapovirus has been identified as one of the contributing causes to a gastro-intestinal illness outbreak in our community.

The control measures and requirements provided to the school district are expected to remain the same regardless of which virus is identified through additional laboratory findings.

"Now we know for sure that norovirus and sapovirus are the viral agents at work here," said District Health Officer Dr. Joseph Iser. "We can be a little more aggressive with our efforts to end the outbreak. The school district has been following our requirements to exclude sick children from classes and to use specific cleaning procedures when a child is sick at school. The only requirement we are enhancing to better control the outbreak is to add stomach aches to the symptoms for exclusion from school."

The Health District is requiring that ill students, staff, and faculty remain at home for at least 24 hours if they experience nausea and/or stomach aches. If no other symptoms occur within that time frame they can return to school.

However, if the additional symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, or fever occur, then those people must be excluded from school for 72 hours (three days) after the last symptoms of nausea, stomach ache, vomiting, or diarrhea have subsided.

In addition to these requirements, health officials stress the importance of limited contact with other people during the course of this illness.

"Besides staying home from school, we want people who are sick to stay away from other community and extra-curricular activities as well," added Iser. "We know this is highly contagious as evident in its rapid spread in several elementary schools. We have also seen small clusters in some area daycares. And although those facilities are complying with our directives, unless we successfully engage the entire community in remaining vigilant with good hygiene, appropriate sanitation, and limited contact with sick people, it will be hard to slow down the virus' progress."

Sanitation requirements for schools and recommendations for households where vomiting or diarrhea has occurred is to clean the immediate and surrounding area with detergent and hot water prior to disinfecting the area with a mixture of 1/2 cup of bleach to a gallon of water.

There are other approved cleaning products available, but they must list effectiveness against norovirus. For more information, visit the Washoe County Health District website at www.washoecounty.us/health. Additional norovirus information can also be found at www.cdc.gov/Features/Norovirus/, and www.cdc.gov/norovirus/multimedia.html.

- This story was released Friday afternoon to the media by the Washoe County Health District.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Oct 29, 2012 11:02AM Published Oct 29, 2012 11:01AM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.