Illness at Washington Elementary School identified as norovirus

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

The illness that caused students and staff to fall sick at Washington Elementary School last month has been identified as the highly contagious norovirus, according to a letter sent out to parents and guardians of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 on Friday.

Samples that the city’s Department of Health and Human Services gathered from sick students tested positive for the virus, the letter said.

Norovirus is spread through contact with an infected person or contaminated food, water or surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It causes a person’s stomach or intestines to become inflamed, leading to symptoms that include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

Health officials from the city and the school do not yet know the source of the virus, the letter said.

After many of the students and staff at the elementary school, 914 Ashland Ave., had symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting, district administration contacted the city on Oct. 31 to inform them of the incident, said Carl Caneva, the city’s assistant director of the health department, in an initial letter to parents and guardians.

The city and district are currently working to monitor schools for their maintenance and food safety procedures to guarantee their reliability, the letter said.

Since the outbreak, the school has been disinfected per city and district procedures, according to the letter.

When the school first reported the virus, the school canceled its Halloween festivities at the city’s recommendation. The city’s health department began interviewing anyone with symptoms to identify the virus, according to the initial letter sent to parents and guardians.

The city is continuing to contact anyone with symptoms of the virus, Friday’s letter said. City officials and district administration reminded people to wash their hands, disinfect surfaces and wash contaminated clothing to prevent further spread of the virus.

Norovirus’ symptoms usually end within a few days with no treatment, according to the CDC. Those who are infected should drink plenty of liquids to replace any fluids loss during the illness.

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