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Virus hits Sutton schools; Hundreds of sick students and staff stay home.

Byline: Bill Fortier

SUTTON - About 50 percent of the students at Simonian Center for Early Learning and the elementary school were absent yesterday from what health and school officials believe is an outbreak of the norovirus, which causes flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, Superintendent of Schools Theodore F. Friend said.

Mr. Friend said about 30 percent of the students and a significant number of staffers at the two schools were absent Thursday and a note was sent to parents of the children Thursday apprising them of the situation. Mr. Friend said health inspectors from four surrounding towns visited the schools Thursday and their findings and calls to the state Department of Public Health determined the most likely cause of the absences was norovirus.

Mr. Friend said about 235 of about 400 students who attend the early learning center were absent yesterday and about 210 pupils at the elementary school were out yesterday. He said yesterday's absentee rate at the middle school was 18 percent, while about 16 percent of the students at the high school were out.

The average daily attendance rate in the school system is about 97 percent, Mr. Friend said.

In a related matter, this weekend's planned performance by students at the high school of "Taming of the Shrew" at the learning center auditorium has been postponed until 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Mr. Friend said. The announcement of the postponement has been posted on the school department's website.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noroviruses are a group of related viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis in humans. The most common symptoms of acute gastroenteritis are diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Norovirus is the official genus name for the group of viruses previously described as "Norwalk-like viruses" (NLV), according to the CDC.

According to the CDC, noroviruses spread from person to person through contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces.

The norovirus is recognized as the leading cause of foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States, and outbreaks can happen to people of all ages and in a variety of settings, according to the CDC.

In the United States, CDC estimates that more than 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis each year are caused by norovirus infection, and more than 50 percent of all foodborne disease outbreaks can be attributed to noroviruses.

Most people get better within 1 to 2 days, although dehydration can be a problem among some people, especially the very young, the elderly, and people with other illnesses. In some cases, fluids may need to be given intravenously. Norovirus is also estimated to cause more than 70,000 hospitalizations and more than 500 deaths annually in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends that surfaces that may be contaminated by the norovirus should be disinfected using a chlorine bleach and water solution.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 12, 2011
Words:481
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