Health & Fitness

Modesto schools alert parents about norovirus outbreaks


School districts are notifying parents of possible norovirus outbreaks in the Modesto area.

Stanislaus County public health has received a few calls from schools reporting students out with gastrointestinal illness, said Barbara Vassell, communicable disease manager for the county.

The norovirus is highly contagious. Symptoms of the illness include vomiting and diarrhea many times a day, stomach pain, fever and headache, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The illness lasts for one to three days.

In robocalls this week, Modesto City Schools made families aware of gastrointestinal illness outbreaks in the region.

Sylvan Union School District said in emails to parents it was helping county public health monitor gastrointestinal illness, including possible cases of norovirus. “While Stanislaus County is not experiencing an epidemic at this time, there have been cases of this virus,” the messages said.

Outbreaks have been reported recently in schools in Sacramento and Yolo counties.

Any students who have the symptoms – vomiting, diarrhea and fever – were advised to stay home until they’re symptom-free for 48 hours. Staff members are asking parents clearing an absence if their child had gastrointestinal symptoms.

The most effective precaution for preventing the spread of the illness is thorough handwashing for 20 seconds, the school district said.

Vassell said a number of schoolchildren had symptoms consistent with norovirus. Health care providers often don’t test to confirm a patient has norovirus. The county public health division won’t have an accurate count on cases because it is not a reportable disease under the law.

According to the CDC, the norovirus is in the stool or vomit of infected people. It is transmitted by eating contaminated food or drink or through contact with an infected individual.

Outbreaks are known to occur in daycare centers, nursing homes and cruise ships.

People usually get over the illness on their own. They’re advised to drink fluids to keep from getting dehydrated.

Vassell said county public health is watching the situation at schools and could take more action if cases were to increase.

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16