Richardson High School officials believe they now know what's making hundreds of students and staff sick. In a February 4 letter to parents, principal Charles Bruner said that preliminary lab results indicate the norovirus may be present in the school.
Norovirus is an acute, highly contagious gastrointestinal infection. Symptoms include stomach ache, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year Norovirus causes about 20 million illnesses, contributes to more than 65,000 hospitalizations and is responsible for up to 800 deaths.
On January 30, 282 students were absent or sent home from Richardson High School. By January 31, that number had risen to 602. Monday's absentee tally was down to 239, but that's still way above average.
"On a normal winter day, we have between 95 and 105 students absent and send home another 10 for various illnesses," Bruner said.
Richardson ISD is working with Dallas County Health Department to combat the illness. Bruner said the Health Department confirmed the school is already doing exactly what it should and has not recommended any additional steps at this time. Norovirus outbreaks are often challenging to control because it is spread person-to-person and through contaminated surfaces.
The high school is "being thoroughly cleaned with anti-viral solutions each evening," and bathrooms, door handles and drinking fountains are getting disinfected six to seven times a day.
"If your student becomes ill with a stomach ache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, do not send them to school, and please keep them home for 24 hours after their symptoms go away," Bruner said.