Health department investigates school illness - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Health department investigates school illness

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EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

Health department officials investigated the stomach virus that sent more than 50 students home from Ebenezer Middle School in Effingham County. 

They said it's consistent with the norovirus, but they may never know what it is because they would need to test a stool sample.

Officials want to make sure parents know this was not a cleanliness problem at the school, this is a virus and it could have happened anywhere.

"It's very contagious, it takes a very small, infectious dose," said District Epidemiologist Robert Thornton.

Health officials believe the students and teachers who were sick last week had what is called the norovirus, a stomach virus that can last anywhere from 24 to 36 hours.

It's usually transmitted when someone doesn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom. 

The virus can then spread when that person touches surfaces or food.  Health officials ruled out any food contamination at Ebenezer Middle School.

"There was nothing found amiss in the cafeteria," said Thornton.  

Officials said none of the cooks or servers had been ill prior to the outbreak.

"If you had something that was food born, you would see it across the board," said Thornton.  

Meaning students and teachers throughout the entire middle school would have gotten sick, but instead, it was concentrated in the eighth grade.

It's a virus that has no cure or vaccination and only one method of prevention.

"Hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent most types of infection," said Thornton.

Make sure to use soap and water when washing your hands. Hand sanitizer can be used if you don't have soap.

Carefully wash your fruits and vegetables. Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces and if you are already sick, do not prepare food and stay home.

Effingham County Schools superintendent said there were fewer students absent from school on Monday. They have also made sure there is ample supply of soap and hand sanitizer available.

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