It’s a school-wide sickness: More than a hundred students, almost 1 in 5, at a San Jose elementary school have been out with the stomach flu during the last two weeks.
Horace Mann Elementary students learned hand washing techniques and ate lunch in their classrooms on Friday, after many of their classmates have come down with viral gastroenteritis, or a serious stomach bug that causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Friday, school nurse Kelly Shepherd applied powder and lotion to the children’s hands “that will show them the germs that may be remaining on their hands,” she said.
Shepherd then used a black light to illuminate them.
“Everybody’s catching it,” Owen said. “A lot of people have gotten it – like 115 almost.”
The second grader says seven of his friends are home right now with the virus. There are about 560 kids who attend Horace Mann Elementary.
“It absolutely could be norovirus,” said Melinda Landau, San Jose Unified’s manager of health and family support programs.
Landau says this all started two weeks ago, when one student threw up and thirty more called in sick. The school contacted the County Department of Public Health, and the school’s facilities team has been cleaning from after school until after midnight in order to stop the spread.
“We did really deep cleanings the last two weekends, but it keeps popping up and resurfacing,” Landau said, explaining the school had a similar outbreak in 2011. However, Landau says that time the outbreak only lasted about a week.
The school notified all the parents via phone message on Thursday afternoon to tell them to keep their kids home for at least 48 hours after they stop having symptoms.
“Many times the kids feel better after 24 hours, so parents send them back not knowing they’re still very contagious,” Landau said.
No other school in the district is having an outbreak. Horace Mann will be “on lock down” this weekend as maintenance teams clean the school again, according to Landau, hoping the sickness stops by next week.
As for the kids, they say they are taking the weekend to clean up.
“Probably watch my kittens and wash my hands a lot more,” Owen said.