Norovirus outbreak sickens P.S. 83 Annex students

Stomach flu sickened students and staff at P.S. 83 Annex on Bogart Avenue last week, forcing the staff to thoroughly clean the building.
Arthur Cusano

Administrators and staff scrambled to wipe a local school clean last week after a norovirus outbreak left a large number of students and staff members sick at the P.S. 83 Annex in Morris Park.

Norovirus, more commonly referred to as stomach flu or food poisoning, is extremely common and highly contagious, especially in enclosed, highly populated spaces.

The actual number of people sickened at the school is still being determined, but more than 100 may have been affected.

NYC Department of Education spokeswoman Toya Holness said the school, located on Bogart Avenue, was thoroughly disinfected Friday and again over the weekend before school opened again as usual Monday morning.

“Families were notified and the school was thoroughly disinfected on Friday and again over the weekend out of an abundance of caution,” Holness said Monday afternoon.

Principal Brandon Muccino said parents were notified of the outbreak be multiple methods, including automated phone messages and a letter that was sent home with children Friday.

He said the school had not previously experienced any sort of widespread outbreak like the one that occurred last week.

“This was the first time in my 16 years here,” Muccino said.

Stomach flu outbreaks in schools are hardly uncommon: Earlier this month, EMS crews responded to P.S. 160 in Brooklyn where approximately 30 students were sickened by the virus, according to published reports.

Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that can cause gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines that leads to cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

While known as the stomach flu, it is not an actual type of influenza.

A norovirus can spread very quickly.

It can be contracted by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus, touching surfaces or objects with the virus on them and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth or by having direct contact with a person who is infected with the illness.

To help prevent the spread of noroviruses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise washing hands with hot water and soap after using the bathroom, changing a diaper or before preparing food.

Soap and hot water and more effective than alcohol-based hand sanitizer lotions.

Carefully rinse fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.

Those infected should avoid preparing food for two days afterwards, and clean possible contaminated surfaces such as bathroom sinks and kitchen counters with a bleach-based cleaning product.

Those infected or living with an infected individual should wash potentially contaminated laundry and linens thoroughly with detergent and place them in a dryer.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com.Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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