Local News

2 cases of norovirus found in Person County schools outbreak

Posted September 4, 2015 2:44 p.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2015 10:35 p.m. EDT

— The Person County Health Department on Friday said two cases of norovirus have been found among dozens of students and staffers who fell ill from a gastrointestinal outbreak Wednesday in Person County schools.

Health officials said more samples must test positive for the virus before it can be identified as the sole cause of the outbreak.

"The Health Department is continuing to contact sick individuals in an attempt to collect samples for testing," officials said in a statement.

Norovirus is highly contagious virus spread through fecal-contaminated food and water. It causes a few days of severe vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.

The number of absences at Person County Schools grew to nearly 1,000 on Friday, two days after the outbreak was reported.

Dr. Sameer Maroof said his Urgent Care practice in Cary has seen viral gastroenteritis or norovirus at least once every other day.

"When I found out they were thinking it's more due to the virus, it can be dangerous," Maroof said.​ "It's a self limiting condition, meaning that it usually gets better as long as there is proper treatment with hydration."

Maroof said the norovirus is usually transmitted by people handling food without washing their hands, or going to the bathroom and not washing their hands.

"What we recommend is eating potassium rich foods like bananas and dates," Maroof said. "With liquids, you should be drinking Pedialyte and Gatorade."

School officials said 988 students – or about 21 percent of the total student enrollment – did not report to class Friday. The figure does not represent the number of students who were symptomatic, and it may be higher than expected because of Labor Day weekend.

A total of 86 students from Person High School and 67 students from the other nine schools in the district experienced "virus-type symptoms" on Wednesday, Superintendent Danny Holloman said.

He described the symptoms as low-grade fever, diarrhea and vomiting, and urged students and teachers to wash their hands frequently using soap and water. The district used a bleach solution to clean each school Thursday, but many parents kept their students home as a precaution. There were 668 absences Thursday.