PRESS RELEASE FROM THE GRANT COUNTY HEALTH DEPT: MOSES LAKE, Wash. - The Grant County Health District received lab confirmation from two specimens submitted to the Washington State Public Health Lab. Both samples were positive for norovirus and came from individuals who became sick during the Longview Elementary School illness outbreak last week.
The outbreak of stomach illness which sickened many students and staff is therefore considered to be caused by norovirus. The source of this virus is unknown, likely the illness was spread when individuals became sick at school and exposed others. There were isolated reports of stomach flu illness in the community prior to this outbreak.
Moses Lake School District and the Grant County Health District have been in contact daily to discuss absentee rates as well as cleaning and sanitizing procedures. Monday, the absentee rate was nearly 25% and that has declined each day with Thursday being the lowest, 8.5%. The elevated absentee rate was expected because parents were asked to keep their sick children home for at least 48 hours after their symptoms stopped. The school continues to clean and sanitize frequently. If students show any signs of stomach pain/nausea the parents are called immediately and asked to pick up their child.
Health District is getting reports of pockets of students in other Moses Lake schools with stomach illnesses. This is not completely unexpected as norovirus is a highly contagious illness and other community members are ill with similar symptoms. If you become sick with a stomach virus it is important to stay home, stay away from well family members, clean bathroom and surfaces after use, drink plenty of fluids, don't prepare food for others, and wash your hands often.
Symptoms of norovirus usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Those infected begin to become ill about 24 – 48 hours after swallowing or breathing in the virus. The sickness is usually brief, lasting only one to three days. This virus is most commonly spread by eating contaminated foods or liquids, touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then placing hands in mouth, or having direct contact with a person who is infected and showing symptoms.
In order to prevent the spread of this virus in your home (and at school), follow these basic prevention strategies:
Wash hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet. Wash hands with soap and warm water before handling food or ice. Wash hands with soap and warm water before eating. Refrain from food handling duties if currently ill and for 2 days after diarrhea and vomiting have stopped. Discard foods that have been handled or prepared by someone who is, or has recently had, vomiting or diarrhea. Promptly clean and disinfect any surfaces that become soiled with vomit or diarrhea.
o To disinfect hard surfaces use soap and water to clean the surface first and then disinfect the clean surface with a freshly made 1/10th bleach solution (1 and a 1/2 cups of bleach to 1 gallon of water).
Handwashing with soap and warm water is the most effective way to remove norovirus from the hands and should be used when caring for a person with suspected or known norovirus. Hand sanitizers should not be used as a substitute for soap and water because they do not kill norovirus.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact or call Grant County Health District Moses Lake Office at 509-766-7960.