Dozens of Cincinnati elementary students sickened by stomach bug

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - George Groves is worried about the health of his three grandchildren.

They attend Mt. Airy Elementary School. Groves believes his granddaughter Bryana Matthews might have caught a stomach bug at the school last week.

"She was a little sick the other day so her mother came and got her," said Groves. "Her stomach was bothering her, but she bounced back the next day."

Matthews is not alone.

Cincinnati Public Health leaders believe 100 to 200 students at Mt. Airy Elementary School have caught a stomach flu.

Dr. Marilyn Crumpton, Medical Director of School & Adolescent Health with the Cincinnati Health Department told FOX19 the school nurse at Mt. Airy Elementary first noticed an issue nearly two weeks ago. Dr. Crumpton said she contacted the city health department.

"In the period that she notified us, she was seeing around 20 students a day with symptoms," said Dr. Crumpton. "And up until today, again, we saw over 20 students were sent to the nurse with all of those symptoms."

The school nurse collected samples, and the state confirmed the strain was the highly contagious norovirus.

The Centers for Disease Control reports anyone can get norovirus, and they can have the illness multiple times during their lifetime.

Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. It's commonly spread on cruise ships.

The CDC states people with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least three days and perhaps for as long as two weeks after recovery, making control of this disease even more difficult.

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and cramps.

Fortunately, usually, rest, fluids, and time can cure it; cleaning can help kill it.

"We have been disinfecting surfaces and disinfecting the whole school," said Janet Walsh, spokesperson for Cincinnati Public Schools. "We're also appealing to parents to help us because we don't want kids to come back too soon. That would put other students at risk and prolong the virus outbreak."

Mt. Airy school will remain open. Dr. Crumpton said the problem can live even after Norovirus symptoms die so closing the school wouldn't help.

Leaders at one Boone County school aren't taking any chances, though.

Leaders at the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Burlington, Ky. have shut the doors for the rest of the week. The school's site posted a statement on its website, saying 166 students (24 percent) have caught an illness.

"This was a difficult decision for us, but it is imperative that we get our students healthy again," a statement on the school's website read.

Meanwhile, at Mt. Airy school, students are learning an extra lesson this week: how to wash their hands in a manner that will kill a virus.

"Yeah!" confirmed Bryana Matthews, a third grader at Mt. Airy School. "We have to count ABC's and 123's!"

The school sent a letter to parents last week and plan to send a second reminder home with children on Thursday. The letter asked parents to contact their child's doctor if they notice the following symptoms:

· Your child complains of constant pain, or pain that seems to be getting worse

· Your child has a fever greater than 103

· There is blood in your child's urine, bowel movement, or vomit

· Your child is not eating or drinking, and not urinating much

· Your child seems lethargic or appears ill

· You are very concerned about your child

Bottom line, if your child seems sick, school officials say let him or her stay home for at least 24 hours after symptoms have passed.

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