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updated: 1/11/2017 5:57 AM

St. Charles East cancels second day of classes due to stomach virus outbreak

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  • Video: St. Charles East virus update

  • Classes were canceled Tuesday at St. Charles East High School due to an abnormally high number of absences as a widespread stomach virus hit hundreds of students. Officials said they will make a determination late Tuesday whether to resume classes Wednesday.

    Classes were canceled Tuesday at St. Charles East High School due to an abnormally high number of absences as a widespread stomach virus hit hundreds of students. Officials said they will make a determination late Tuesday whether to resume classes Wednesday.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • The student parking lot at St. Charles East High School was empty Tuesday after classes were canceled due to a high number of absences from a widespread stomach virus.

      The student parking lot at St. Charles East High School was empty Tuesday after classes were canceled due to a high number of absences from a widespread stomach virus.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Classes were canceled at St. Charles East High School for Tuesday and all of District 303's 17 schools were being cleaned with bleach Monday evening after a widespread stomach virus caused hundreds of absences at the high school Monday, district officials said.

      Classes were canceled at St. Charles East High School for Tuesday and all of District 303's 17 schools were being cleaned with bleach Monday evening after a widespread stomach virus caused hundreds of absences at the high school Monday, district officials said.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

After a spate of illnesses, classes at St. Charles East High School have been canceled for Wednesday and are expected to resume Thursday, officials say.

St. Charles Unit District 303 posted the cancellation to Facebook Tuesday and asked parents to keep their children at home to avoid spreading what officials said could be norovirus. Although no diagnosis has been made, the school officials are following procedures put in place to respond to norovirus.

"We are now working to assist the Illinois Department of Public Health in their efforts to more clearly identify this virus," the social media post said. "The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that people with norovirus be symptom-free for 48 hours before returning to normal activities."

St. Charles East High School teachers called hundreds of parents Tuesday to determine how many students could make it to school Wednesday. School staff members will again call parents about students' conditions Wednesday.

Classes were canceled Tuesday at St. Charles East after about 800 of the school's 2,000 students missed class Monday due to a widespread stomach virus. All of District 303's 17 schools were being cleaned with bleach Monday evening -- per a recommendation by the CDC -- to kill norovirus and other viruses.

The majority of those absent reported symptoms of a stomach virus, though exactly how many students remained sick Tuesday is unclear, officials said.

Other district schools aren't seeing an abnormally high number of absences for this time of year, said Jim Blaney, District 303's director of school and community relations.

Norovirus is highly contagious, with symptoms that generally include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain, according to the CDC. Symptoms usually appear 12 to 48 hours after exposure and typically subside within one to three days. It's common in closed areas like nursing homes, cruise ships and schools, according to the CDC website.

Officials with the regional offices of education for DuPage, North Suburban Cook and McHenry counties said there have been no reports of higher absences due to illness among their school districts. A regional office spokesman for Lake County could not immediately be reached.

Kane County Regional Superintendent Patricia Dal Santo said St. Charles East is the only school with reported sickness outbreaks.

Geneva Unit District 304 officials tweeted the district is "not currently experiencing increase in illness-related absences. We are monitoring situation."

District 303 officials have been consulting with the Kane County Health Department, but no official determination has been made as to whether it is norovirus that afflicts students.

A health department spokesman said the district is doing "everything right" with respect to monitoring and handling the situation. For details about norovirus prevention, visit kanehealth.com/norovirus.htm.

"To make a determination like that, there has to be examinations by physicians," Blaney said, adding he is not aware that any of the students who called in absent actually have been to the doctor. "Kids have been ill for 24 to 48 hours. Dr. Mom is the person who is evaluating. We don't have a determination on exactly what this is. The symptoms that are being presented by many of the students and the way that this is moving through the population ... it's consistent with norovirus."

Blaney said norovirus is present in the communities within the Western suburbs, and district officials are doing what they can under the circumstances.

"We had 800 absences. It does not equate to 800 sick," he said. "We are getting good data from parents. We don't have a tally of how many kids are sick. We are just trying to make a determination on how many kids will be able to attend school."

Officials first became aware of the illness Saturday when 10 of the 14 East varsity boys basketball players became sick overnight. The varsity boys and girls games against St. Charles North were canceled as a result.

• Daily Herald staff writer Chacour Koop contributed to this story.

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