Sunday, February 5, 2012

Norovirus Hits Close to Home: San Francisco High School Shut Down

Last week, a norovirus outbreak suddenly and dramatically hit St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco. School authorities and health professionals have scrambled to explain the source of the outbreak, but so far tests run to check possible contamination of the food or water supply, which would be the easiest way for the fecal-orally transmitted norovirus to spread so quickly, have come back negative. As of now, the school's population has been devastated with a 20% infection rate(!!). 300 students and 30 teachers all got acutely sick on last Wednesday with many vomiting at school. Because of the high infection rate and norovirus' extremely contagious nature, officials shut down the school and declared a 5-day weekend while testing was done and the entire school cleaned to eliminate any residual viral particles. As with the case of most norovirus outbreaks in America, all those affected are expected to recover in a matter of days even though several cases at the school resulted in trips to the hospital due to severe dehydration, likely so they could be treated by ORT.

Interestingly, one of the investigators relayed an anecdote that may explain the outbreak. Supposedly, a sick student vomited on one of the door handles in a main hallway and the janitors didn't disinfect the mess completely. Though the cause of this incident may never be known, the possibility that a single sick patient and a single vomiting could lead to over 300 ill speaks volumes about the incredibly contagious norovirus. We should be so lucky that such a virus is not more dangerous, and that all of these students will recover with no chronic infection.

-Zachary Herrera

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