Parents alerted to norovirus outbreak in San Jose schools

- Public health officials are alerting parents in San Jose of an outbreak of what they suspect is the contagious norovirus. As of Wednesday, the San Jose Unified School District reports 240 students have gotten sick in 11 schools, up from 10 the previous day. The outbreak started at Hacienda Environmental Science Magnet School.

In a statement on Wednesday the school district said there is no official confirmation of a specific virus, but they are treating the situation as if it were norovirus. 

The district says they are taking several preventative and precautionary measures to protect the safety and health of students. School nurses are being sent to every classroom at affected schools to instruct students on hygiene and to remind them to wash their hands. They are cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and play structures at the affected schools. They are also maintaining contact with parents and families, as well as adhering to a 48-hour rule where students who experience symptoms, should wait that amount of time before they return to class. 

The district is also voluntarily cancelling or postponing student performances and art shows in some cases. 

Clean-up crews spent the evening disinfecting classrooms with bleach at Hacienda Elementary School after 87 students reported getting sick this month.

Among them is 4-year-old Emanuel Lopez. He’s slowly getting his energy back. He’s been out of school all last week after his mother said he came down with a nasty stomach bug.

“Last week he had stomach ache, fever and vomiting, all body had pain and all week for five days,” said Parent Ana Lopez.

Lopez said Emanuel lost five pounds because he was vomiting so much.

The San Jose Unified School District started seeing students with similar symptoms around 10 days ago.         

“We are seeing new cases crop up every day so we are being really vigilant and making sure that we are doing our best to make sure it's contained as much as possible,” said Peter Allen of the San Jose Unified School District.

Besides scrubbing down classrooms twice a day, the district sent letters to parents as well as called and emailed them about the outbreak.

“It’s definitely unusual that we have this many cases,” said Dr. George Han of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

Public health officials don't know how it started but say it's seasonal.

“We are sort of still in the colder months of the year so whatever reason this virus spreads more during the colder months,” said Dr. Han.

“We have to wash our hands before everything before we go outside before we eat snack, eat lunch, anything,” Nicole Renda who is eight years old.

Hand washing is the best prevention. At Hacienda Elementary School, the school cancelled after school events this week. The school is hoping to get ahead of it so it doesn't impact graduation.

“I’m kind of worried because I don't want to get the sickness,” said Renda. “I heard it's a really bad sickness.”

The district said a similar outbreak happened around the same time last year but it wasn't as big. On Wednesday, nurses will be at the schools teaching students about good hygiene.

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