A county school heath official says a stomach illness that has caused a number of area students to take sick leave has not surpassed the thresholds of normalcy, according to state guidelines.
An illness is not considered prevalent until a school experiences an absentee rate of more than 10 percent due to sickness, and that hasn’t happened – at least not yet, said Carroll County Public Schools Health Services Supervisor Marge Hoffmaster.
“There has been a stomach bug going around across the board (in Carroll County schools), but it’s nothing that has precipitated extensive illnesses and absenteeism,” she said.
Sykesville resident and parent Megan Heaps said she has heard reports that students at Carrolltown, Goddard and Freedom elementary schools have been experiencing vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
Heaps said one of her sons attended a baseball game with several area students in Sykesville on Saturday, where parents reported that children began vomiting.
Heaps said the symptoms are akin to the norovirus, a contagious virus borne from fecal contact that can easily spread through contaminated surfaces like door handles and exposure to feces or vomit.
Recently, ABC News reported that the norovirus was transmitted in a reusable grocery bag and caused several children and adults to be sick at a soccer tournament in Washington state.
But so far, no such illness has been reported to the CCPS Health Services department, Hoffmaster said.
“Certain illnesses are required to be reported to the state to identify a bacteria or something,” she said. “Then that's a whole different thing.”
Center For Disease Control officials suggest the following steps when trying to prevent contagious illnesses like the Norovirus:
- Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers, and always before eating, preparing, or handling food.
- Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating.
- Keep sick infants and children out of areas where food is being handled and prepared.
- After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Use a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1000–5000 ppm (5–25 tablespoons of household bleach [5.25%] per gallon of water) or other disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Wash laundry thoroughly, immediately removing and washing clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool (feces). Handle soiled items carefully without agitating them, and wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled items. Wash your hands after, and wash the items with detergent at the maximum available cycle length then machine dry them.