Norovirus outbreak temporarily closes Wisconsin elementary school: officials

A suspected norovirus outbreak has temporarily closed an elementary school in Wisconsin, school officials said this week.

Early Thursday, officials at Johnson Creek Elementary school in Johnson Creek, Wis., began receiving calls of students being sick with a gastrointestinal illness, which included vomiting. As the day went on, other children began showing similar signs.

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“We had an inordinate number of students call in sick," Johnson Creek School District Superintendent Michael Garvey told local station WKOW. In total, 68 students — roughly 30 percent of the student body — either called out sick or went home early on Thursday because they were feeling unwell. Some staff members were also sickened.

School district officials chose to close the school Friday to prevent the spread of norovirus, a highly contagious illness. The school will be deep-cleaned while students and staff are away.

"It's pushing the limits of what we can handle to clean up during a school day," Garvey added. "They'll bring a crew of at least eight to 10 people, and they will go room to room, cleaning all the flat surfaces, all the items that students handle frequently; all the doorknobs.”

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About 30 percent of students either called out sick or went home early on Thursday because they were feeling unwell, school officials said.

About 30 percent of students either called out sick or went home early on Thursday because they were feeling unwell, school officials said. (iStock)

As of now, Garvey said the school is expected to reopen on Monday. No other schools within the district have been affected at this time.

Norovirus is a gastrointestinal illness that’s sometimes called the “winter vomiting bug.” It typically causes nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, and spreads easily.

A common way the virus is transmitted is through close contact with an infected person. This is either directly or indirectly, such as sharing a bathroom, a dorm room or another communal space. Cruise ships, schools, and nursing homes “are the most commonly reported settings for norovirus outbreaks,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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More specifically, the virus spreads through fecal matter and vomit. “It only takes a few virus particles to make people sick,” Lee-Ann Jaykus, the scientific director for NoroCORE, a food safety initiative that’s funded through a $25 million grant from the USDA, previously told Fox News.

The news comes after a suspected norovirus outbreak temporarily shuttered an entire school district in Colorado in November. At the time, the Mesa County Valley School District 51 — the 14th largest in Colorado with more than 22,000 students — announced it was closing its more than 40 schools until after Thanksgiving break due to the highly contagious gastrointestinal illness.