By Pat Maurer
So far Clare County Schools have not seen more than normal absences due to an outbreak of intestinal flu that closed Mt. Pleasant Schools for two days this week.
The virus spreads rapidly. The Mt. Pleasant District went from 40 students out sick on Tuesday to more than 200 on Wednesday.
The increased numbers resulted in a decision to close the entire district on Thursday and Friday to allow students to recover, halt the spread of the bug and give the district to time to clean and sanitize the buildings.
School will resume in Mt. Pleasant on Tuesday because Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and there are no classes scheduled that day.
Health officials believe “Norovirus” is responsible for the outbreak. It is extremely contagious according to Dr. Robert Graham, Director of the Central Michigan District Health Department in Isabella County. It is spread by respiratory droplets, orally and through fecal matter.
Nearly everyone is susceptible. It affects the gastrointestinal tract and usually lasts from 36 to 72 hours.
According to the CDC [Center for Disease Control and Prevention],
Noroviruses spread easily, causing more than 20 million gastroenteritis cases each year in the U.S. There’s no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection and no drug to treat it. Wash your hands often and follow simple tips to stay virus-free.
Noroviruses are a group of related viruses. Infection with these viruses affects the stomach and intestines and causes an illness called gastroenteritis (GAS-tro-en-ter-I-tis; inflammation of the stomach and intestines). Anyone can be infected with noroviruses and get sick. Also, you can get norovirus illness more than once during your life. The illness often begins suddenly. You may feel very sick, with stomach cramping, throwing up, and/or diarrhea.
So far Clare County has not seen an abnormal amount of intestinal flu cases.
Clare Superintendent Doniel Pummell said, “There hasn’t been anything reported. We don’t have an outbreak, an issue or a concern. I haven’t heard anyone in Clare mention any problems.” She said she had checked with the Primary School Wednesday. “We don’t have any more absences there than normal,” she said.
Farwell School Superintendent Carl Seiter said their Elementary had a lot of absences before the [Christmas] break. “I’m sure we have some students out with the flu, but not to the level of closing the school,” he said. “I was concerned before Christmas with the Elementary having a high volume of absences and youngsters getting sick in school. The break came at a good time to stop that.”
Tammy Harcourt, Administrative Assistant the Harrison Superintendent, said Wednesday, “I would be the one to get calls if there was a problem. I haven’t received any calls for the buildings about attendance being low, and there are no plans to close any buildings at this time.”