Alabama Elementary School Closed After Mystery Illness Outbreak Leads To 773 Absent Students

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An elementary school in Fairhope, Alabama closed Thursday after nearly 800 students were marked absent. This was not surprising to the school staff or public health officials due to the sudden outbreak of a mysterious gastrointestinal outbreak.

Nearly 30 Students Missed Class On Tuesday, Exponential Increase Overnight

Multiple reports confirm that 29 Fairhope West Elementary School students were reported absent from class on Tuesday. However, the number of absent students escalated exponentially into the hundreds overnight – including students and half of the staff members not showing up on Wednesday.

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Baldwin County Public Schools Spokesperson Chasity Riddick confirmed in an interview with Advance Local that not all the absent students and staff members were diagnosed with the gastrointestinal illness. Parents were actually told that all absences would be excused if they kept their children at home.

Superintendent Told Parents They ‘Need To Shut The Building Down

Eddie Tyler, the superintendent of Baldwin County Schools, informed parents in a message that they “unfortunately need to shut the building down.” Tyler claimed that the closure was due to the amount of absent students and staff and “the number who are experiencing symptoms.”

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He further expressed that the closure decision was made as an “effort to help contain the contagion.” The announcement confirmed that the elementary school would remain closed Thursday and Friday.

Superintendent Claims There Will Be A ‘Deep Cleaning Of The School

Tyler also stated that the staff will conduct “a deep cleaning of the school” while the students and staff are away. The goal is to make sure that the school “will be sanitized to the fullest extent” before the students and staff members return next week.

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The school official concluded his statement by indicating that they understood the “inconvenience this may cause” the parents and caregivers responsible for the affected students. He advised them to take care of themselves and their families.

Health Department Indicates Only ‘Nausea And Vomiting’ Symptoms Are Reported

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is reportedly investigating what has been referred to as a “gastrointestinal outbreak.” The agency also confirmed that the school system is working diligently with health officials and cooperating with the investigation.

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ADPH Chief Medical Officer Karen Landers confirmed that “nausea and vomiting only are being reported” as symptoms. She also indicated that specimen collection materials have been distributed for testing through the agency’s Bureau of Clinical Laboratories.

Health Official Claims Response Protocol Is Similar To Handling Norovirus

Alison Rudd, the health services coordinator for the school district, explained that the school is treating the currently unconfirmed illness as if they were responding to the norovirus. She indicated that “there are the types of illnesses you hear about shutting down cruise ships.”

Source: Pixabay

The highly-contagious norovirus and other similar gastrointestinal illnesses are able to spread exponentially within areas that have a high amount of group contact. Unfortunately, this includes crowded yet confined vessels – such as yachts and cruise ships.

Similar Outbreak Infected Over 150 People On Queen Victoria Cruise Ship

Multiple reports confirm that a similar outbreak of gastrointestinal symptoms infected over 150 people aboard the Queen Victoria cruise ship in late January. The Cunard Queen Victoria cruise ship reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the passengers experienced vomiting and diarrhea symptoms.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Queen Victoria Cruise Ship

The CDC started monitoring the outbreak within the ship on January 22 after it docked in Fort Lauderdale. The exact nature and cause of the disease was unclear. However, cruise ships are reportedly massive targets for the norovirus – which has been referred to as the “cruise ship virus.”

Another Norovirus Outbreak Expected At Colgate University

Another outbreak of the norovirus was suspected at Colgate University in late February after 15 students showed symptoms of a gastrointestinal illness that were consistent with the infection. Over 50 other people were under investigation for their symptoms as well – including nearby residents and students.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Stilfehler

Most of the suspect cases were linked to various social events that occurred on and off the Colgate University campus. For instance, there was a fundraising event held at a local hotel in addition to several student social gatherings on February 22.

Confirmed Details About The Norovirus Infection

According to the CDC, the norovirus infection is one of the leading causes of acute gastroenteritis. This consists of the inflammation of the lining of a person’s intestines and stomach.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Scientific Animations

Studies have proven that the infection results in intense experiences of diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and nausea. The symptoms, which are reportedly unpleasant and very sudden, usually start within 12 to 48 hours after initial exposure.

Norovirus Is ‘Dreaded Virus’ That ‘Leaves Us In The Bathroom

Dr. Tara Narula, a medical contributor for NBC News, referred to the norovirus infection as the “dreaded virus that leaves us in the bathroom for about a day or two.” The infection is extremely contagious and spreads year-round. Dr. Ericka Hayes, the senior medical director of infection prevention within the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, confirmed that this seasonal virus is “one of the most contagious kind of pathogens, viral or bacterial.”

Source: Pixabay/Barry D

Outbreaks and case number spikes typically occur during the winter months. This is usually because most people spend time indoors gathered with others during the colder months of the year. This makes it much easier for infectious diseases to spread due to physical contact with other humans. Recent reports have noticed surges in the Western and Northeastern regions of the United States.

How To Prevent The Spread Of The Norovirus Infection

If you have been diagnosed with the norovirus, medical experts recommend self-quarantining at home until your condition improves. Due to the highly-contagious nature of the infection, you should also avoid any contact with other people. Experts confirm that the virus is difficult to disinfect and resistant to most standard cleaners.

Source: Pixabay/Ivabalk

In addition, you are strongly encouraged to wash your hands thoroughly before touching any type of communal surface. Disinfect each surface with bleach and make sure that you use hot water to wash your laundry. Wait until the symptoms have disappeared for a minimum of 48 hours before you start to prepare or handle food again.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

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