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posted: 3/12/2012 3:34 PM

Illnesses subsiding at Algonquin school

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Things are beginning to return to normal at Westfield Community School in Algonquin, which last week saw more than half of its elementary-age students out sick with norovirus, Principal Bill Doran said Monday.

On Monday, just eight out of 475 elementary school students and 90 out of 1,121 middle school students reported being sick with stomach flu symptoms, he said.

That's a complete reversal from Friday, when 262 elementary students and 223 middle school students were out sick. That represented 55 percent of the elementary population and nearly 20 percent of the middle school pupils. On both Friday and Monday, 11 teachers called in sick, but the school doesn't track the reasons why.

The norovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal ailment, for which there is no treatment. It usually lasts between 24 and 48 hours. Officials noticed something was wrong Thursday, after 109 kids called in sick. Just 17 were reported sick the day before.

"It is getting better," Doran said. "We're closely monitoring the situation. We're continuing to clean the high touch areas and we'll continue to do these things."

The school's custodians, with help from five other custodians across Community Unit District 300, cleaned the school from top to bottom on Saturday. They disinfected and sanitized the building, focusing on lockers, locker handles, chairs, desks, countertops, doors, door knobs, sinks and toilets. This was in addition to similar cleanings that took place Thursday and Friday.

"Unless our numbers give us a reason to reduce the volume of cleaning, we will continue to clean all of these surface areas," Doran said, adding that he would send an update to parents via email Monday afternoon.

Late Friday, Westfield officials received confirmation from the Kane County Health Department that the norovirus was the culprit behind all of the absences last week.

In a letter, the health department said it used parent interviews, last week's absentee rate, and lab tests to make its determination.

Preventive measures against the virus include good hygiene practices, like frequent hand washings.

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