A gastro-intestinal illness suspected of sickening hundreds of local elementary school children has the Washoe County Health District puzzled after eleven children with similar symptoms were seen in local emergency rooms in one day. The virus causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and it is highly contagious.
"We have been working closely with the Washoe County School District to prevent the spread of the virus," said District Health Officer Dr. Joseph Iser. "The school district has been following our requirements to exclude sick children from classes and to use specific cleaning procedures when a child is sick at school. We also hope that parents are teaching their children proper hand washing and hygiene so that germs and viruses don't spread throughout the household as well." The Health District recommends ½ cup of bleach mixed with a gallon of water be used to wash down any area where anyone has been ill with vomiting or diarrhea, and that ill persons remain at home for at least 72 hours (three days) after the last symptoms of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea have subsided.
In a recent television interview, health officials suggested that common norovirus was suspected for the outbreak; however, laboratory tests have not been conclusive that norovirus is the only cause. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been asked to assist in the laboratory testing. Results are expected back in Reno by the end of next week.
On Friday, October 12, the school district called and e-mailed to parents a district-wide, Connect Ed message to advise them of the stomach illness. At that time, three elementary schools were experiencing a 20% infection rate – which indicates a highly contagious virus. According to a school district spokesperson, more than 57,460 emails and phone calls were delivered.
For more information on proper hand washing methods and for updates when they are available, visit the Washoe County Health District website at www.washoecounty.us/health.