Perspective from William T. Gerson, MD
May 23, 2017
2 min read
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Norovirus outbreak grows to 2,800 cases in northern California schools

Perspective from William T. Gerson, MD
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Health officials from Yolo County in northern California have reported an outbreak of norovirus in the county schools with 2,836 cases among students and faculty.

During a press conference on May 12, the Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency reported a total of 952 cases of gastrointestinal illness — including stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea — among 32 schools in Yolo County; within 5 days, the number of cases had more than doubled to 2,091.

“The number of sick people is increasing every day at a very alarming rate,” Yolo County Public Information officer, Beth Gabor, said in a press release. “The outbreak has been identified and confirmed by specimen testing to be norovirus which is highly contagious. Any vomit or diarrhea may contain norovirus and should be treated as though it does.”

While there are currently no plans to close the affected schools, Yolo County Public Health officer, Ron Chapman, MD, MPH, advised parents and school staff that any students presenting with symptoms should remain at home until symptoms have subsided, if not longer. “Stay home for an additional 48 hours after symptoms are gone. Even though you feel better, you still carry the virus and can infect others.”

In neighboring Sacramento County, health officials have reported six school districts with suspected cases of norovirus, including Elk Grove, Natomas, Sacramento City, San Juan, and Twin Rivers, as well as the Elverta Joint Elementary School District where school officials closed three schools early in May due to 53 cases of norovirus among students and faculty. It remains unknown whether there is a connection between these new cases and the ongoing outbreak in Yolo County.

According to the CDC, norovirus is responsible for 1.7-1.9 million outpatient visits and 400,000 ED visits annually, primarily in young children, as well as 570-800 deaths, which disproportionately impacts young children and the elderly. Many people develop norovirus in cooler months, particularly from November to April, and can develop the infection five times during their lifetime.by Bob Stott