Since the norovirus-like illness that impacted our community around the Thanksgiving holiday, Mesa County Public Health has been monitoring illness to an even greater degree than usual. As a result of that enhanced monitoring, we have been made aware of increased illness at least one local school heading into Winter Break.
The reports we received of increased illness were on Thursday (12/19) and Friday (12/20). The symptoms are similar to what we saw in November, with most cases reporting vomiting. In addition, there are also reports of fever with this illness. As of this (Friday) afternoon, District 51 schools are out of session for Winter Break.
Mesa County Public Health is concerned about the spread of illness into our community. This time of year, the chance of getting sick increases as we all gather together. To remain healthy, we’re asking our community to take steps to prevent the spread of illness.
We hope these recommendations help ensure you have a happy and healthy holiday.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
To prevent the spread of illness to other people it is very important we all:
REMAIN HOME If someone in your family is ill and has symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, and/or a fever, they should stay home until at least 24 hours after symptoms end.
These types of illnesses typically run their course but watch for symptoms of dehydration which include: sunken eyes, dry mouth and tongue, increased thirst, skin that goes back slowly when pinched, and a decrease in volume of urine.
KNOW THE RISKCertain groups are at a higher risk of illness, and if you’ve been around someone who’s been sick there’s an increased likelihood you could get sick, too. Many illnesses have what’s called an incubation period, an amount of time between when you’re infected and you actually have symptoms. Keep that in mind, and if you’ve been around or cared for someone who’s been sick, consider limiting interactions. You could be contagious and spreading illness, even when you don’t feel sick yet.
WASH HANDS Ensure that all members of your household wash their hands often, especially after using the bathroom, cleaning, changing diapers, or before preparing or eating food.
Cover all parts of hands with soap, rub lathered hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds, and thoroughly rinse hands with water.
A hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol can be used if soap and water are not available, but washing with soap and water is best.
DISINFECT Some of these illnesses can be difficult to get rid of and particles can live on surfaces for weeks, even months. When you’re cleaning, disinfect using a solution of one cup of regular strength bleach in one gallon of water. Be sure to clean surfaces that are commonly touched like doorknobs, light switches, or remote controls.
CONSIDER A FLU SHOT Mesa County Public Health recommends everyone over the age of 6 months get an annual flu vaccine. Influenza is prevalent this season in many areas of the country, including Colorado. A flu shot is your best protection against severe complications that can arise from influenza. The Mesa County Public Health Clinic, located at 510 29 ½ Road, has flu vaccine available and serves all patients regardless of ability to pay.
CONTACT PUBLIC HEALTH The public vomiting line remains open and allows Mesa County Public Health to follow up with facilities where public vomiting events occur to ensure proper cleanup. To report an incident of public vomiting online click here or call 970-462-7074.
CONTACT A DOCTOR These recommendations are intended to help prevent the further spread of illness, not serve as a diagnosis or medical advice. If you or your child is sick, and you have questions about the symptoms or illness, you should contact a healthcare provider.
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) continues to monitor illness in our community, and while initial indications from student absence reports from D51, community illness reports, and data from visits to primary care providers give us reason to believe the illness is dwindling, we are still seeing reports of gastrointestinal illness, and a handful of incidents of public vomiting. The levels of illness we are seeing, however, are in line with what we would expect to see this time of year.
These types of illnesses are very common. The rapid spread and large number of people impacted was unique with this outbreak, but viruses like this are around all the time. They typically peak in the winter months when we are all together indoors or other confined spaces. The highly contagious viruses can spread very quickly from person to person as we saw with this outbreak, and the sudden onset of vomiting with this virus made it more widespread than usual.
For your health and the protection of everyone, you should stay home from work or school and keep your kids out of child care if you or they are sick. In addition, MCPH recommends disinfecting high touch surfaces; make sure to do this after you’ve been sick, but sanitizing your surroundings with a cleaner effective against norovirus on a routine basis never hurts, as these types of viruses can live on surfaces for weeks.
Perhaps the most effective way to stop the spread of illness, and to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands. Studies have shown that handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. But whenever possible, wash your hands with soap and water. When you wash:
Wet your hands with clean running water, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
Scrub for 20 seconds. How long is that? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song, twice.
Rinse your hands under running water.
Dry using a clean towel or air dry.
In addition, it is influenza season and flu activity is increasing across the country. There has already been one person hospitalized due to influenza, or the flu, in Mesa County. Statewide, more than 150 hospitalizations have occurred already this season. Unlike the gastrointestinal illness that impacted our community, there is a vaccine available to protect against the flu. MCPH recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine each year. Our clinic, located at 510 29 ½ Road, has vaccine available, walk-ins are welcome for flu shots, no appointment needed.
Mesa County Public Health and D51 ask families to make sure students are illness-free before returning to classrooms to ensure the virus circulating in our community is not reintroduced in our local schools.
After the closure of all schools in D51 prior to the Thanksgiving break due to illness, the district has deep cleaned and is ready to welcome students back to class. This illness outbreak was due to a highly contagious virus acting a lot like norovirus. The illness moved so quickly, there were active reports of vomiting in more than 30 schools when the district made the unprecedented decision to close.
Over the break, a deep clean occurred at all D51 buildings to stop the spread of illness, but the virus remains in our community. Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) has confirmed a norovirus outbreak at a long term care facility and received numerous reports of people getting sick in public places days after the closure of the schools.
MCPH recommends parents know and look for symptoms in their kids. For this illness, symptoms to watch for are:
Mainly vomiting, with a very sudden onset
In addition, viruses like this usually come with a feeling of being worn down or overall tiredness. While we know tiredness can be difficult to measure or quantify in certain age groups, we ask that you don’t send your child to school if you think they may have been exposed to the virus or have any current symptoms. If your child has been sick, do not send them to school until at least 24 hours after their symptoms end. There is an incubation period of anywhere between 12-36 hours after coming into contact with the virus to the time you show symptoms.
Mesa County Public Health will continue to work with D51 to monitor both student and staff illness as well as the overall community impacts from this outbreak.
Reports to the Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) hotline and online form set up for public displays of vomiting provided valuable illness information. Based on information collected over the weekend, and regular contact with businesses and other community partners, the spread and number of public buildings impacted appear to be significantly lower than last week when this gastrointestinal illness spread so quickly, it resulted in the closure of all schools in District 51.
The primary symptoms reported are vomiting, some diarrhea, and some fever.
We are still seeing reports of illness. Based on the symptom information we have collected from ill people and the duration of symptoms, we believe that the illness affecting the community is due to a virus, and people should continue to practice good handwashing and stay home if they are sick.
Here’s the latest information on the stomach bug and its impacts on our community:
There were 18 reports to MCPH’s public vomiting reporting line. MCPH is following up with the locations where incidents were said to occur to verify the incident and ensure proper cleanup.
MCPH has been made aware of increased illness at three local facilities.
Increased illness was reported at one additional child care, bringing the total to six, including two D51 preschool facilities.
Cleaning at District 51 schools continues, this deep clean was already planned over the holiday break, but custodial crews are using products effective against norovirus. The schools plan to reopen after the scheduled holiday break.
There have been many questions surrounding a potential second virus identified by D51 after a handful of students who had already experienced symptoms, became sick again. Based on what’s being reported to us, MCPH believes there is a combination of norovirus and influenza circulating in the community. We are in influenza (flu) season, there has already been one hospitalization due to influenza so far this season in Mesa County.
To read more about the difference between influenza and gastrointestinal illnesses, like norovirus, click here.