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Virus sends many kids home

An outbreak of some form of virus has a North Okanagan elementary school on high alert after nearly 20 per cent of the kids were home sick.

Joe Rogers, Superintendent of the Vernon School District, says the district received a report from Lavington Elementary School that a large number of kids had come down with flu-like symptoms.

“Thirty kids out of 170 were reported ill which is higher than normal. We called Interior Health and they came over and looked at things and thought there may be a possibility of Norovirus (also known as the Norwalk virus),” said Rogers.

Senior Medical Health Officer with Interior Health Dr. Andrew Larder says they were notified of a high level of absenteeism at the school Thursday and have been investigating the situation for the last 24-hours.

“We have looked at various possibilities for the cause and based on our investigation the most likely cause is Norovirus and that the school is experiencing a Norovirus outbreak,” said Larder.

Letters were sent home to parents this week from the school urging them to keep kids home if they are not feeling well.

“The letter said that if their child had signs of the flu or dehydration to make sure they went through the Interior Health protocols and stayed home for two days after the vomiting and diarrhea had finished,” said Rogers.

“We are working with the school to bring the virus under control,” added Dr. Larder. “Those who are sick are asked to stay away from the school and other people and children, while for those still in the school we are reinforcing good hand hygiene."

On Thursday the School District brought in three extra custodians to make sure all the desks and the doorknobs were washed and the bathrooms cleaned thoroughly.

“We are trying to make sure we are proactive and deal with the situation,” added Rogers.

He says the district typically involves medical officials anytime over 10 per cent of students are absent for the same reason.

So far Rogers says the virus has not spread to other schools in the area and seems to be contained to Lavington Elementary School.

Some parents at the school chose to keep their kids home today to prevent the spread any further.

Dr. Larder says this is a typical outbreak and can be caused by just one or two people who are sick coming in and contaminating surfaces.

“We see outbreaks like this in residential care facilities, tour buses, cruise-ships. It is a setting where lots of people are congregated together and it spreads very quickly,” said Larder.

He also shared some advice for parents with kids home sick.

“Parents need to just treat the symptoms and be careful about good hygiene and keeping the house clean when the children are home because you can get it spreading in the family if you aren't really scrupulous about those things.”

Dr. Larder says they will now work with the district and the school to monitor absenteeism next week and ensure the rate goes back down and back to normal.

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