Canyon County

About 60 percent of Nampa school’s students stay home the day after virus outbreak

Only about 40 percent of Lone Star Middle School’s 830 students went to school Friday, the day after a gastrointestinal ailment struck students.

“We don’t know if they were home sick, or mom and dad were concerned and kept them home,” Nampa School District public information officer Allison Westfall said. Seven Lone Star teachers called in sick Friday, she said.

A total of 495 students stayed home Friday, up from 160 students who stayed home or went home sick Thursday, reporting symptoms of vomiting and “not feeling well,” Westfall said.

Those symptoms, paired with the large number of affected students, point to norovirus, said Laurie Boston, spokeswoman for Southwest District Health. But that has not been confirmed.

The health district submitted stool and vomit samples for testing but did not receive results by the end of the business day Friday, Boston said. Results should be available Monday, she said.

Norovirus is a highly infectious gastrointestinal disease that causes vomiting and diarrhea. People can catch it if they come into contact with someone who has the disease or touch a surface that’s been contaminated. It travels through fecal material or vomit, which makes sanitation and hand-washing especially important, she said.

“That virus is able to survive for long periods of time on surfaces,” Boston said.

Though the disease is rarely life-threatening, it can cause dehydration, so affected individuals should drink plenty of fluids, she said.

Families with a sick kid should take extra care to prevent the spread of the disease, Boston said.

“We want to really intensify your hygiene practices and the cleanliness of your bathroom. Make sure the person suffering isn’t cooking for at least two days,” she said. “Disinfectant or bleach to clean your surfaces. (Wash your hands) after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food.”

Parents also should clean contaminated clothes and linens in an extra-long wash cycle and handle items with disposable rubber gloves, Boston said. Sick students should stay home for up to 24 hours after symptoms go away to prevent spreading the disease, according to an Associated Press report.

The middle school disinfected the school and school buses, covering all “touch points” such as lockers and door handles, Westfall said. The disinfection efforts, targeted to this particular virus, extended to all district schools, she said, although no other Nampa schools reported outbreaks.