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Likely norovirus outbreak closes Johnson Creek school

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JOHNSON CREEK (WKOW) -- Johnson Creek Elementary will be closed Friday after 30 percent of students either called in sick or went home with nausea Thursday.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Garvey said the calls started early Thursday morning.

"We had an inordinate number of students call in sick," he said.

He said it only got worse as the day went on.

"We had more students have those symptoms and go home," he said.

In total he said 68 students reported feeling sick and the Jefferson County Health Department says some staff did as well. Officials opened an investigation Thursday.

"They believe its norovirus, the stomach ailments, the GI tract," Garvey said.

Norovirus can cause symptoms like nasuea, vomiting fever and body aches. The health department said it's often confused with the flu, but influenza causes respiratory symptoms while norovirus stays in the intestinal tract.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus is highly contagious.

"It's pushing the limits of what we can handle to clean up during a school day," Garvey said.

To stop the spread, Johnson Creek Elementary School will close Friday for professional deep-cleaning.

"They'll bring a crew of at least eight to ten people and they will go room to room cleaning all the flat surfaces, all the items that students handle frequently, all the door knobs," Garvey said.

The high and middle schools intend to still have classes as normal, though Garvey asks of older students to keep an eye out for symptoms.

"In a small district like ours, we have students riding together on buses and we have families who have students in both of our buildings so those parents need to take precautions," he said.

Garvey said the school is planning to continue efforts to disinfect through the weekend and expects to reopen on Monday.

According to the CDC, students who have contracted the norovirus should not return to school until they've gone symptom-free for 48 hours.

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JT Cestkowski

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Michelle Alfini

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