Virus reported in 52 Cook Co. schools

November 16, 2010 2:53:20 PM PST
An outbreak of a stomach virus is making many children sick in suburban Cook County.

Dozens of schools are reporting their students are being infected with a type of Norovirus.

On Tuesday, 52 schools reported two or more students sick with gastro-intestinal virus in Cook County. The symptoms include vomiting, stomach cramps and mild fever. Health officials received the first report in early October and released a health alert earlier this month after schools reported an increasing number of cases.

Anyone can become infected by consuming contaminated food or beverages, touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then putting their hands in their mouth, or sharing food or eating utensils with someone who is ill.

Des Plaines District 62 is one of many districts affected by the virus throughout suburban Cook County. Health officials will not name the other districts, but they are warning parents to tell their children to wash their hands and keep their kids home if they are feeling sick.

Kids at Algonquin Middle School are taking extra precautions.

"I wash my hands every other class period from the desks and the chairs 'cause there usually have been kids there who are sick, so I wash my hands every other period," said Leena Khoury, student.

Parents are also talking to their children.

"I'm trying to help him understand that it's contagious and that if you have it, you can pass it on, and wipe everything," said Vicki Borgman, parent.

"We are constantly keeping all surfaces clean in the school, providing hand sanitizers, reminding children -- particularly the younger children -- of hygiene procedures, washing hands, not eating or drinking after others, that type of thing," said Mindy Ward, director of community relations, District 62.

District 62 says it has a handful of kids sick in five of its schools. School administrators have put a warning out on the district's website.

"It's one of those things that we're on top of it, we're monitoring it, we're in constant communication with Cook County, and we're in constant communication with our parents and reminding them and our staff," Ward said.

School officials urge sick students to stay home for at least twenty fours hours after symptoms subside.

Health officials hope families will maintain healthy vigilance going into the holidays.

"Especially as there are parties and family get-togethers that this is a really extra special time to think about washing your hands, really be conscious of washing your hands," said Dr. Susan Gerber, Cook County Department Public Health.

Norovirus can be passed from person to person and it can also be passed through the food.

"If somebody is ill with diarrhea or vomiting, not a great idea for them to be preparing food for a large group of family members basically because this virus is very contagious," said Dr. Gerber.


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