Illness forces two Petersburg schools to close

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 10:36 AM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - A gastrointestinal illness forced two Petersburg elementary schools to close on Friday.

School officials say Pleasants Lane and Lakemont elementary schools were closed “for a deep cleaning” due to an outbreak. More than 50 kids are sick, according to the school system.

“The custodial staff is concentrating on cleaning areas of high contact in order to minimize the possibility of transmission,” Petersburg Public Schools said in a news release.

The schools moved to an online learning day for students to complete assignments.

Crater Health District is actively investigating the outbreak and thinks the illness may be norovirus, otherwise known as the stomach flu.

The health district is collecting stool samples from students to test for the virus. They’re also recommending cleaning products and protocols to school staff to make sure they are cutting down on the spread. The virus can stay on surfaces for weeks.

“The whole state has been seeing an increase in gastrointestinal illness and a lot of other areas have diagnosed cases of norovirus and this is typically the time of the year that we would see norovirus the season kind of runs from November to April,” said Courtney Ayers who is the Deputy Epidemiologist for the Crater Health District.

The main symptoms of norovirus, which are the same ones being seen in Petersburg students, are vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can also present as a headache or low-grade fever.

The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU says norovirus is highly contagious. But even if your kid gets sick, symptoms only last for 1 to 2 days.

“So if you’re able at home to have the sick kiddo or sick person use their own bathroom but if not just doing frequent counter surface cleaning to try to help keep that illness contained,” explained Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough who works at Children’s Hopsital of Richmond at VCU.

Health experts say kids are rarely hospitalized for the illness. However, if your child has bloody stool or severe abdominal pain you should take them to a doctor to be checked out.

“The biggest thing that parents should do if their children are sick is making sure that they’re drinking plenty of liquids such as water or juice, Gatorade those kinds of things to replace the fluids lost from the vomiting and diarrhea to prevent dehydration because that kind of tends to be the reason that kids get so sick is from dehydration,” Ayers stated.

Petersburg Schools plans to reopen both elementary schools on Monday.