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19 students, staff at Clairemont school showing symptoms of possible Norovirus

Posted at 5:54 PM, Feb 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-01 22:02:20-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)— Nearly two dozen students and teachers at Maria Montessori in Clairemont are showing symptoms of the Norovirus.

The San Diego County Health Department has opened up an investigation into what may become the first school Norovirus outbreak of the year.

Maria Montessori is getting a deep cleanse.

“There's a stomach bug going around,” parent Margie Newman said. “My daughter is in one of the affected class, so I kept her home today, and my son as well, just in case."

Friday, the private school reported to the county health department, that at least 19 students and staff showed symptoms of the Norovirus within the last 24 hours.

School officials said, out of the Preschool to 8th-grade program, the illness was limited to two lower grade classrooms. Health officials urged students in those rooms to stay home.

10News spoke with Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of the San Diego County Health Epidemiology Program, who explained that his department has opened up an investigation to pinpoint the quick-spreading illness. While most Norovirus outbreaks in the county are reported from skilled nursing facilities, some are reported from schools.

"People usually hear about the word "Norovirus" and they think it only happens on cruise ships and that's not the case. It's actually the exception rather than the norm. It's just extremely common this time of the year."

Dr. McDonald said they see a spike in Norovirus cases every year between December and February. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and fever.

Friday morning, specimens from the Montessori were sent county health labs. While awaiting test results, the health department is treating this as if it were in fact Norovirus outbreak. They consider an illness to be an "outbreak" if there are more than five reported cases within a 24-hour period.

In the meantime, they have instructed the school to disinfect common areas and high-touch surfaces.

Some parents were upset that the school is moving forward with the scheduled open house on Feb. 1, despite the illnesses. School officials told 10News that parents with students assigned to the infected classrooms will have their open house rescheduled for next Friday.

“If you have young children, this is par for the course,” Newman said. “The school does a great job communicating and cleaning. I would say to any parent freaked out. This too shall pass. Wash your hands, get a bucket, it's going to be OK.”

If you are experiencing symptoms of the Norovirus, McDonald said to be vigilant about your hygiene. Around 75 percent of Norovirus cases in the county spread through person-to-person contact. Disinfect your surroundings with bleach or chlorine and monitor your condition for 48 hours.