Have you ever heard of norovirus?
That vomit- and diarrhea-inducing illness spreading through schools has reached more than 2,800 people in Yolo County as of Monday and could linger on campuses through the end of the academic year, health officials say.
The new total of Yolo County norovirus cases is significantly higher than the nearly 2,100 cases reported a week ago.
Kristin Weivoda, emergency medical services administrator for the county, said the spread of norovirus will be difficult to overcome before school is out because of the ease of transmission among children.
The problem? Kids aren’t great at washing their hands, she said.
A 10-year-old child who fails to wash after using the restroom “gets sick in school, may go to the bathroom, wipe, come back out and touch things,” she said. “That’s why it’s lingering.”
“The other thing is hand sanitizers don’t kill it,” she added. “How many kids do we see with backpacks and hand sanitizers? It’s amazing to say, but soap and water is the strongest way to fight this.”
She said the county may know soon whether norovirus has peaked in the county, as more data rolls in.
“It’s a tough one to characterize because people are still contagious for 48 hours” after the symptoms disappear, Weivoda said. “It’s hard to see when a peak is happening, or ending because people who are asymptomatic are still spreading it.”
Washington Unified School District through Monday had reported 917 cases believed to be norovirus, according to the county. Woodland Joint Unified School District reported 908. And Davis Joint Unified has reported 591 cases since May 3. Outbreaks were also in triple-digits in Esparto and Winters school districts. UC Davis has reported 61 cases so far.
In Sacramento County, Health and Human Services spokeswoman Samantha Mott said last week that the virus had reached students and some adults in six school districts, Sacramento City, San Juan, Elk Grove, Twin Rivers and Natomas unified school districts, as well as the Elverta Joint Elementary School District. In addition, a spokesman for Folsom Cordova Unified reported a handful of cases.
At Sacramento City Unified, cases have roughly doubled since last week, rising to 386 suspicious cases at 37 schools.
“It’s popping up everywhere right now,” Weivoda said. “Norovirus is like the common cold. It spreads easily. And it’s the No. 1 leading cause of diarrhea and vomiting in the United States.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reports that schools typically represent about 6 percent of norovirus cases in a given year, most occurring in health care facilities or restaurant and banquet settings.
The virus can also sweep through workplaces, but the spread is better contained than in schools, partly because adults tend to practice better hygiene.
The symptoms appear rapidly, Weivoda said. “You could feel fine in the morning but by midafternoon, you start feeling nausea and you vomit.”