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Phoenix-based school warns families of potential norovirus outbreak

An elevated number of absences at Phoenix’s Kyrene De La Colina Elementary School may be the result of a norovirus outbreak.

Kelly Alexander, director of community education and outreach services for Kyrene School District, said the district notified the Maricopa County Department of Public Health of an illness spreading through De La Colina when over 200 of the school’s students stayed home Friday.

“Whenever we have elevated numbers and they reach 10 percent (of the student population), that keys us to look at the reasons for the absences and contact Maricopa County Health Department to determine our next steps,” Alexander said. “The health department did say that it is possibly (due to) a norovirus.”

Norovirus symptoms include upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea — all of which were reported by families of many of the school’s absent children, according to Alexander.

“It is a highly-contagious virus, and it is also one that is quick-moving in that you’re typically only ill for 24 to 48 hours,” she said.

Alexander said families of children throughout the district have been informed of the possible outbreak, and she said teachers are encouraging students to avoid sharing objects such as crayons and pencils.

“We also are instructing students to wash their hands often with soap and water, and we’re working with our community to make sure that we encourage families to keep children at home that are sick,” she said.

Students are also being reminded to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, and objects at the school are being frequently cleaned and disinfected.

Since norovirus can become airborne, Alexander said the district is being cautious in its approach toward a possible outbreak.

“It is a virus where children and actually anyone can become ill, and so at any time when they’re ill, (we tell families) to look for that so we can contact parents and have them take care of their children as best as possible,” she said.

Norovirus was the possible culprit of a viral outbreak at a Gilbert-based elementary school in May.