Norovirus outbreak jumps to 950 cases in Yolo County schools, officials say

More than 950 students, teachers and staff in Yolo County have been sickened in the ongoing norovirus outbreak, which is associated with stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, health officials said Friday.

The Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency reported that infected people have been identified in part through specimen testing involving a half-dozen school districts. The results, they said, include 434 cases to date in the Woodland Joint Unified School District and 181 in the Davis Joint Unified School District.

“The message is good hygiene and staying home 48 hours after the symptoms have resolved are crucial,” said Yolo County spokeswoman Beth Gabor. “I think that has been the problem. Kids have been returning to school too soon.”

The department urged area residents to clean contaminated surfaces regularly with disinfectant such as bleach, to not prepare food or drink for others if they are sick, and to wash hands often with soap and water.

A number of school districts in the affected region alerted families through messages and online to remove their children from schools if they show symptoms.

The virus is highly contagious and spreads by touching contaminated surfaces, coming into close contact with an infected person or by consuming contaminated food or drink. Norovirus particles can also float through the air, authorities warned.

“The number of sick people is increasing every day at a very alarming rate,” the county health office said in a news release.

The agency described the norovirus particles as extremely small, with billions present in the stool and vomit of infected people. Any vomit or diarrhea should be treated as though it contains the particles, the notice warned. People can be contagious for at least three days after being sick.

Maria Clayton, Davis Joint Unified spokeswoman, said cases were found throughout the school district’s 18 sites.

“We’re tracking this internally and making the determination daily about how things are looking,” she said.

Smaller districts in Yolo County also recorded instances of the illness: Esparto Unified had 49 cases to date, according to health authorities. Winters Joint Unified had 39; UC Davis recorded 32 cases.

The health department also reported 217 cases in Washington Unified School District. But district spokesman Giorgos Kazanis said he has seen reports of far fewer cases.

“They don’t add up to 217,” he said. Kazanis said it’s possible that the county received data reflecting all absences, not just for the norovirus. “Attendance at all of our schools is above 90 percent,” he said.

Reports of norovirus have been growing in the area since early May, when 33 students and five teachers were struck with the virus, according to Sacramento County Health Department officials. That report, issued May 4, prompted closure of three schools in Elverta.