Stomach bug lays college low

Last updated 13:00 20/02/2014

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The outbreak of the highly infectious norovirus at Waimea College should serve as a warning to other organisations, says the Public Heath Service.

The diarrhoea and vomiting bug hit about 30 staff, with the school's other teachers and relievers having to step in this week to cover classes during their absence.

By yesterday that was down to five away ill or on a 48-hour standdown period, and today only two were away, one of them becoming sick last night, said principal Larry Ching.

Some students had gone home with stomach complaints but it was uncertain whether it was from the same outbreak.

"One or two parents have decided to keep their children away while this illness has been through, and that's their call," he said.

While its cleaning systems had been found to be good, the school would continue to be extremely vigilant about cleanliness, continuing its double-clean and reminding students about washing hands and not sharing drink bottles, he said.

The Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service has been working with the 1500-student college in Richmond in dealing with the outbreak, and says the cause is likely to be the highly infectious norovirus.

Its origin has not been pinpointed.

Medical Officer of Health Jill Sherwood said norovirus was always present in the community but was particularly prevalent at this time of the year.

"This outbreak is a timely reminder to check the readiness of schools, campgrounds, aged residential care facilities and hospitals to respond to such outbreaks," she said.

A letter had been sent to all schools in the area asking them to check that all toilet facilities have soap dispensers and disposable paper towels and ensuring that there is a protocol for clean-up of vomiting or diarrhoea "accidents", she said.

Anyone sick with diarrhoea or vomiting, should stay away from child centres, school or work. "If you develop symptoms do not return to school or work until 48 hours after your last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting as with most gastroenteritis bugs people remain infectious up until 48 hours after their symptoms stop.

"The best way to avoid infection and to prevent passing gastroenteritis bugs on to others is to thoroughly wash and dry your hands. This is particularly important after using the toilet or before handling food."

Anyone concerned about themselves or a family member seek advice from their GP or practice nurse.

She said it was also important not to visit rest homes, hospitals, or be out in large groups of people while you have symptoms and for 48 hours after the symptoms stop; you should also not prepare food for others during this time.

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While gastroenteritis and norovirus are not publicly notifiable diseases, the Public Health Service has a role when a large number of people are affected or at risk of infection.

- The Nelson Mail

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