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Officials hope norovirus epidemic will slow as schools close for summer

Have you ever heard of norovirus?

This short video explains what norovirus is, how it is spread, groups that are at high risk for severe disease and how you can protect yourself and loved ones from getting it. Seniors and young children are vulnerable.
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This short video explains what norovirus is, how it is spread, groups that are at high risk for severe disease and how you can protect yourself and loved ones from getting it. Seniors and young children are vulnerable.

Health officials say they hope the close of schools for the summer will help slow the spread of norovirus, the illness that swept Yolo and Sacramento counties in May and affected hundreds of students.

“Knowing that we’re within a week of the end of school, which is the largest point of transmission, we may break the cycle,” said Callie Lutz, public information officer for the Woodland Joint Unified School District. The illness is marked by diarrhea and vomiting.

As of Friday, Yolo County authorities said that 4,069 people are believed to have contracted norovirus since early May. In Sacramento County, 43 schools have been affected, but there have been no new cases in the last week, said Samantha Mott, spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Those with the virus typically remain contagious for a few days, and sometimes much longer, after symptoms disappear, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus spread rapidly last month because some children returned to school as soon as they started feeling better, officials said.

“The end of the school year is in our favor,” Kristin Weivoda, Yolo County’s administrator of emergency medical services said Friday. “It looks like it’s coming to an end.”

Even so, she said, it is too early to declare the worst over because some schools are holding summer sessions.

Norovirus can be spread through contact with contaminated food and surfaces or personal contact.

The county will continue collecting reports of new cases until the outbreak is over, Weivoda said.

While some school districts such as Folsom Cordova Unified and Twin Rivers Unified have ended their spring semester, five other districts have yet to close their doors for the summer break. Sacramento City Unified classes are scheduled to end June 16.

Woodland closed four schools and Davis closed a preschool the day before Memorial Day weekend. Those schools were cleaned and reopened the following Tuesday.

Good hygiene, washing hands and staying home are recommended to stop the spread of the virus, Weivoda said.

Molly Sullivan: 916-321-1175, @SullivanMollyM

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