By SHERRI KOLADE
HEIGHTS — A state Health Department bureau confirmed Nov. 21 that students and staff at Annapolis High School, 4650 Clippert St., were exposed to the norovirus recently.
Staff at the Michigan Department of Community Health Bureau of Laboratories confirmed that 173 students and 17 staff members who were sick with sudden symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and a low-grade fever, on Nov. 14 and Nov. 15 had a norovirus infection.
The norovirus is a group of viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis, irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Norovirus is contagious and can be spread by contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States, causing about 21 million illnesses and contributing to about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths a year.
School officials closed the school Nov. 16 after numerous students became sick and showed norovirus-type symptoms earlier in the week; the school reopened on Nov. 19 and about 95 percent of the students and staff returned, Dearborn Heights School District No. 7. Superintendent Jeff Bartold said. No one from AHS needed hospitalization, he said.
Bartold said after they closed the school they hired a professional cleaning company to disinfect and sanitize the entire school; 20 workers cleaned for about 300 hours Nov. 16 and Nov. 17.
The Wayne County Health Department collected stool samples from the infected students and staff on Nov. 15 and sent them to the MDCH.
Mary Mazur, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Department of Public Health, said the norovirus is most commonly seen during the fall and winter season when virus outbreaks occur.
“That is a key time for the virus to spread,” Mazur said. “People are indoors in large numbers more often and they are around food for holiday celebrations. It is that time of year they are in close contact and it is a better breeding ground for germs.”
Bartold said he can’t confirm if the norovirus came from an outside source or from within the school.
“All it does is narrow down that it was the virus and not something else,” Bartold said.
Bartold said Nov. 20 the school will most likely notify parents about the norovirus in a letter.
The norovirus was also responsible for infecting about 80 hockey players and fans in the Taylor Sportsplex, 13333 Telegraph Road, which shut down March 11, to clean and disinfect; the facility reopened a few days later.
The best way to help prevent norovirus is to practice proper hand washing and general cleanliness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For more information about the norovirus go to www.cdc.gov.
(Sherri Kolade can be reached at [email protected])