By News-Register staff • 

Health officials fear norovirus outbreak at Sheridan High School; precautions being taken

SHERIDAN - With so many Sheridan High School students and staff members out sick with a gastrointestinal illness, Yamhill County officials are concerned about a norovirus outbreak threatening public health.

"We are working with the school and families to collect samples for testing to determine the cause of the illness and providing education and technical assistance to stop the spread of the illness," said Lindsey Manfrin, deputy director of Yamhill County Health and Human Services.

"We do not know the cause of illness," she said. "However, it appears to be norovirus or a gastrointestinal illness similar to norovirus."

Sheridan School Superintendent Steve Sugg said the outbreak was first noticed last Wednesday.

"The custodial staff has been disinfecting the buildings each night," he said. "Staff, students and parents have been reminded about good hygiene habits."

A call went out to high school and Faulconer-Chapman School (K-8) students Friday afternoon reminding them that if their children show symptoms to keep them home.

"We have been working with the Yamhill County Health Department on procedures and communication," Sugg said. "We do believe the outbreak is under control at this time and want to thank our custodians and Yamhill County Health for their quick response to get the outbreak under control quickly.

Norovirus is the most common cause of outbreaks of food-related disease. It also spreads readily among household contacts and among residents and staff within institutional settings such as long-term-care facilities and schools.

Alcohol hand gels do not kill the norovirus. Manfrin said meticulous washing of hands with soap and water is recommended to prevent spreading the virus.

Norovirus is present in the feces of infected persons for a couple of days after symptoms resolve. Manfrin recommend that during an outbreak, affected persons remain home from school or work for 48 hours after symptoms resolve.

Bleach and some other sanitizing agents can kill the norovirus, she said. This may be indicated for surfaces touched frequently by hands -- especially those of young children -- including toys, hand rails, computer keyboards and mice, water fountains, faucets and toilets, she added.

No one should prepare food for others for 48 hours after any acute illness with vomiting or diarrhea, Manfrin said.

For information, call Yamhill County Public Health at 503-434-7525.

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