Outbreak of Norovirus Closes Dozens of Schools in CO.

Source: Anton Estrada - 123RF

Grand Junction, CO – 46 schools, affecting thousands of students, were closed Thursday, and remained closed today, following a suspected outbreak of norovirus.

According to ABC News, the outbreak was first seen last week at a high school, before spreading to other schools.

Officials in the district, the largest in western Colorado with 22,000 students, believe there is now another related strain of the virus that has affected some students who were previously sick.

According to the CDC, norovirus is very contagious and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Anyone can get infected and sick with norovirus from:

  • Having direct contact with an infected person;
  • Consuming contaminated food or water; and
  • Touching contaminated surfaces then putting your unwashed hands in your mouth.

Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines. This is called acute gastroenteritis.

A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days.

Nicole Comstock, communicable disease deputy branch chief for the state Department of Public Health and Environment, told The Daily Sentinel that there are about 150 to 200 suspected norovirus outbreaks in the state each year.

She said most occur at nursing homes but outbreaks at schools are not uncommon.

Mesa County Public Health Epidemiology Program Manager, Heidi Dragoo, said one business in Mesa County has reported increased absenteeism due to illness. She said she has also been in contact with other county health departments as she said the illness was expected to spread.

Garfield County Public Health said in a news release Thursday that it has had reports of people with norovirus-like symptoms. St. Mary’s Medical Center is restricting visitors under the age of 18 or anyone who has experienced vomiting, nausea or diarrhea in the last 24 hours from visiting the main hospital, Pavilion and Life Center.

Each year, on average in the United States, norovirus:

  • Causes 19 to 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis;
  • Leads to 1.7 to 1.9 million outpatient visits and 400,000 emergency department visits, primarily in young children; and
  • Contributes to about 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths, mostly among young children and the elderly.

The CDC adds that drinking plenty of liquids would replace fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhea. This will help prevent dehydration.

Dehydration can lead to serious problems. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization for treatment with fluids given through your vein (intravenous or IV fluids).