Education

Fewer Nampa middle school students ill as health department probes virus that sickened them

Southwestern Idaho health officials have not yet identified the gastrointestinal ailment that caused nearly 500 Lone Star Middle School students to miss classes Friday.

“It’s possible that there could be several viruses, but we won’t know until we have confirmation,” said Laurie Boston, spokeswoman for Southwest District Health.

Only 62 of Lone Star’s 830 students were not in class on Monday, Nampa School District spokeswoman Allison Westfall said.

“It’s good that kids felt good enough to come to school. There weren’t as many who reported illness,” Westfall said.

On Friday, 495 students — or about 60 percent of the school’s student body — stayed home. A day earlier, 160 students stayed home or went home sick.

District officials were unsure how many were actually sick and how many others might have been kept home by concerned parents.

The health district submitted vomit samples from some of the Lone Star students who were sickened. However, they weren’t of sufficient volume to provide extensive samples, Boston said.

“We didn’t have a lot to work with,” she said. “We’re continuing to investigate the outbreak.”

By Wednesday, district officials had received more stool samples, but were still hoping to collect more, Boston said.

Students who were sick last week reported vomiting and not feeling well, Westfall said at the time. Those symptoms and the large number of affected students could point to norovirus, Boston said last week.

Norovirus is a highly infectious gastrointestinal disease that causes vomiting and diarrhea. People can be infected by coming in contact with someone who has the disease or by touching a contaminated surface. It travels through fecal material or vomit, which makes sanitation and hand-washing especially important, health officials said.

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

People should practice good hand-washing techniques, Boston said. Those infected should not go to school or work until 24 hours after no longer showing symptoms. People who prepare or serve food should not work for three days after they recover.

Families with a sick child should take extra care to prevent the spread of the disease. Parents should clean contaminated clothes and linens in an extra-long wash cycle and handle items with disposable rubber gloves, Boston said.

Workers 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.

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