Muscle Shoals Schools Closing – 300+ Kids Sick

By  | March 8, 2012 | Filed under: News

MUSCLE SHOALS – Schools in Muscle Shoals were emptied this afternoon because of a suspected outbreak of Norovirus. They will remain closed Friday.

Dr. Jeff Wooten - Muscle Shoals City Schools Superintendent

Schools superintendent, Dr. Jeff Wooten, announced mid-morning today that all city schools would be let out after lunch because of the suspected virus. As of 10 o’clock, there were approximately 400 absences, with McBride Elementary being the school most affected. “We have spoken to our local health officials and based on these conversations, I have made a decision to cancel all Muscle Shoals City Schools on Friday, March 9, 2012, in order to prevent further contamination among our students and staff. We have also followed proper protocol in notifying the Alabama Public Health Department, which will be investigating the situation and implementing their standard procedures,” his letter read.

McBride Elkementary

Dr. Wooten further admonished parents in his letter to “not send your child to school if they are exhibiting symptoms of the virus or have vomited within the past 24 hours.” The school system is set to resume classes on Monday.

Colbert County Health Department

Dr. Karen Landers, of the Alabama Department of Public Health, based at The Colbert County Health Department said Norovirus is becoming more common mainly because science has better methods of testing for it. She said it not particularly dangerous, however it can make its victims quite ill. Norovirus, which is comprised of a number of similar strains, used to be commonly referred to as the ’24-hour virus’ or ‘stomach virus.’ She cautioned that, while this appears to be Norovirus, the outbreak at Muscle Shoals has not definitely been nailed down. That won’t happen until the State lab in Montgomery has had a chance to look at the bug. She told us that an answer should be in hand by Monday. As of her telephone call to The Quad-Cities Daily, she said that, to her knowledge, no child from the city schools had been hospitalized.

According to the United States Centers For Disease Control, Norovisuses cause acute gastroenteritis in humans. The most common symptoms of acute gastroenteritis are diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Noroviruses spread from person to person, through contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces. Norovirus is recognized as the leading cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States. Outbreaks can happen to people of all ages and in a variety of settings. The average incubation period is 12 to 48 hours, and symptoms usually last 24 to 60 hours.

Electron Microscope View of Norovirus

Noroviruses are highly contagious, with as few as 18 virus particles thought to be sufficient to cause infection. This pathogen is estimated to be the causative agent in over 21 million gastroenteritis cases every year in the United States, representing approximately 60% of
all acute gastroenteritis cases from known pathogens. Noroviruses are transmitted primarily through the fecaloral route, either by direct person-to-person spread or fecally contaminated food or water.

Schools are not the only place where noroviruses can create health problems. Noroviruses are the most common virus to plague cruise ships. Last month, three cruise ship outbreaks happened in just one weekend; one in Louisiana and two in Florida.

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