For the third time in a month and a half, a Palm Beach County campus is pulling out the disinfectants in order to wipe out some sort of intestinal bug that has sent dozens of students home this week. This time the battle ground is Palm Beach Gardens Elementary. Authorities suspect Norovirus.
That’s the culprit that spiked absences at Barton Elementary in Lake Worth in mid-May and Citrus Cove Elementary in Boynton weeks before that, said Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the state health department in Palm Beach County.
A letter was sent home Thursday to parents of students at the school, alerting them that the school has witnessed a wave of illness with the dreaded combo of nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and cramps.
About 30 students were out sick with these symptoms Wednesday and another 30 reported ill Thursday, O’Connor said.
The health department suspects Norovirus, but can’t be certain without testing stool specimens. The letter home asks parents to seek a test from their doctor or to gather the specimens themselves using kits provided by school nurses. Those kits then can be delivered to the West Palm Beach Health Center, 1150 45th St.
Norovirus is highly contagious and can spread from an infected person, contaminated food, water or surfaces such as desktops and door knobs. It is often tied to gasto-illnesses on cruise ships and in nursing homes, but can pop up in a range of institutional settings from schools to military camps and prisons.
The school in Palm Beach Gardens has already begun the disinfecting protocol that Norovirus would trigger, O’Connor said. But it is important to discern whether they are indeed dealing with Norovirus or some other organism to determine what other steps are needed to stop the illness from spreading, he said.
In mid-May, health officials confirmed that Norovirus was behind a wave of absences at Barton Elementary in Lake Worth. And weeks before that, the virus was confirmed at Citrus Cove Elementary in suburban Boynton Beach, O’Connor said. The virus has run its course at both schools.
Washing hands with soap and water is one of the best ways to prevent illness from spreading. But once a child does get sick, officials urge parents to keep them home after the symptoms subside for 48 hours.
“You can shed the virus for more than 24 hours after you are symptom free,” O’Connor said.