South Bay Parents Brace for Possible Norovirus Outbreak

After a Norovirus scare, parents of students at Willow Glen Elementary School in San Jose have been warned: If your children are sick, keep them home.

Administrators say that between Monday and Thursday, at least 21 children reported symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever – all symptoms that are characteristic of Norovirus, which can cause temporary inflammation of the stomach and large intestine. It can take days to recover from the bug. A large group also reported feeling sick Friday.

Parents received emails and phone calls from the school’s administrator, advising them to keep any student who feels ill home and to take precautionary measures. Once at school, students were reminded to keep rough housing to a minimum and to frequently wash their hands.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department is now monitoring similar situations at San Jose's Horace Mann and Walter L. Bachrodt elementary schools. 

"We noticed an increase here at Willow Glen Elementary of kids that had vomiting and diarrhea," said Melinda Landau, San Jose Unified School District's health support manager. "Since we've had situations over at Horace Mann and Bachrodt, we really jumped on it immediately."

Parents said they weren't too worried, citing similar outbreaks that happened when they were young.

“I think these sort of things happen once in a while,” said Kevin Smith, a parent. “When I was a kid we had lice scares and that sort of thing. I think it is something that will be around a few days and go away.”

The school has closed off access to the playground and sporting equipment. Upcoming field trips have also been axed from the calendar, as directed by school district officials.

Although the news has been disappointing to students, parents have been supportive of the school’s decision.

"The school has done a great job at communicating to all the parents to keep your kids home if they're sick and do extra hand washing, so we're feeling good about sending him today,” said Angela Ritcey, whose son attends the Willow Glen.

She continued: “In a public school, where they are all together, this is bound to happen…”

Officials say students are being taught preventative measures, including wearing gloves when needed. But whether it is norovirus or something else, the illness seems to be spreading.

"I've heard from other nurses and other districts that they are seeing it in their schools too," Landau said.

As of Friday evening, public health officials emphasized that there has not yet been a single confirmed case — mainly because the symptoms pass quickly and make it difficult to get lab samples, they said.

But the department is working closely with every district where symptoms appear, and apparently the phone keeps ringing.

Parent Julia Castro hopes that her kids are "just feeling under the weather, and a little rest and a three-day weekend should perk them up."

When asked how she reacted to news of the outbreak, Castro replied, "With caution, definitely. You hear about cruise ships with the norovirus and just how completely and quickly it spreads."

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