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Norovirus outbreak sickens RCW students

RENVILLE -- A Norovirus outbreak has sickened students in the Renville County West school district.

Over 60 students were absent from school on Thursday with symptoms of the disease, most of them in the elementary school, according to information from the district office.

Attendance figures for today were not available this morning. Substitute teachers were filling in for many sickened teachers, and the replacements were unfamiliar with the attendance reporting system.

The virus causes severe diarrhea and vomiting, but most people recover in 24 to 48 hours, according to Jill Bruns, Renville County public health director.

She said an investigation by her office and the Minnesota Department of Health has ruled out food as the cause of the outbreak in the school.

Students in the elementary school's physical education program appear to have been the first stricken by the disease, possibly by sharing a baseball bat that had been handled by an infected person.

The virus is rampant in Minnesota right now, and is readily spread, said Bruns. Someone could easily have picked up the disease from a doorknob, shopping cart or other object, became infected and inadvertently spread it at the school.

Bruns commended the school for being quick to report the disease and taking action that can help stop its spread.

The virus is long-lasting in the environment. Washing surfaces with hot water and detergent is usually not enough to sterilize it. Bruns recommends using a solution of bleach to disinfect surfaces that could be contaminated.

She advises anyone who may have the symptoms of the virus to remain home and not spread the disease. People should always wash their hands with soap and warm water.

The main concern with the disease is that it can cause dehydration, with young children, seniors and people with other health issues most at risk.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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