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Norovirus blamed for student illnesses

Posted at 12:47 PM, Mar 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-14 18:52:11-04

The higher than normal absentee rate at Citrus Cove Elementary is the result of the Norovirus GII, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Students have exhibited symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

Principal Laura Green said last week that administrators had noticed a "significant" number of absentees.

Monday, Principal Laura Green said 140 students were absent. The nurse sent another 40 home early because they showed some symptoms of the virus, Green added.

1,100 students attend the school.

The school says a company has been cleaning and sanitizing surfaces where there have been reports of illness as well as common areas.

Proper hand-washing and general cleanliness is the best way to help prevent norovirus, according to the Health Department.

Yessenia Niestzche has three kids at Citrus Cove Elementary. She says she's sending them to school with disinfectant wipes.

"I also have hand sanitizer that I give them so every time they touch something, I tell them to wipe their hands," she explains.

Another parent, Lisa Kornheisl, told NewsChannel 5 she won't take her kids out of school, instead she'll talk to them about washing their hands.

She says the school's proactive approach keeps her from panicking.

"If you take care of your children, and the school makes sure they're washing their hands, then no [panic] at all," Kornheisl says.

Tim O'Connor with the Florida Department of Health says there is no medicine to get rid of norovirus.

He says students and teachers should be symptom-free for 48 hours before they return to school.

"If they come back and they're not well, then it can just keep perpetuating itself and keeps on going," he points out.

O'Connor says it's unlikely doctors will ever find out how the virus was first introduced to the school.

A spokesperson from the school district says no other schools are experiencing an outbreak. The department of health is keeping an eye on absentee numbers at others school as a precaution.

The district spokesperson says it's highly unlikely they'll shut the school down.

Spring break starts Friday which might help stop the spread of the virus.