The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene returned to the P.S. 83 Annex during the holiday break after a highly contagious stomach flu continued to sicken students and staff.
The school announced Friday, December 9, that students had been sickened by the norovirus, more commonly known as the stomach flu, a common and highly contagious sickness.
As many as 200 students and staff members were sickened in the week leading up to the announcement and the building was disinfected, and then disinfected again over the following weekend.
But the cleanings was apparently not enough, as the DHMH was scheduled to return to the school on Bogart Avenue for further cleaning while the school was closed for the holidays, according to the NYC Department of Education spokesman Toya Holness.
“The building is being continuously cleaned and will be thoroughly disinfected again over the winter break,” Holness said Friday.
The DOE is working in close partnership with the DHMH to monitor the situation and are providing the school with ongoing support, she added.
The DHMH provided guidance for hand hygiene and disinfection of the school, and is monitoring daily illness and absence reports through daily communication with school staff, according to Stephanie Buhle, the department’s assistant press secretary.
“As is normally the case this time of year, we are seeing an increase in gastrointestinal illness reports in communities across the city,” Buhle said. “P.S. 83 in the Bronx continues to do ongoing disinfection, and it is planning to do additional disinfection over the break.”
Principal Brandon Muccino confirmed the outbreak in a letter to parents on the Monday, December 12, and said the outbreak was the first of its kind at the school in his time there as principal.
Muccino did not immediately respond to a call for comment made to the school Friday, December 24.
However a front office employee at the school, Liz Mazzella, confirmed the virus was still an ongoing issue.
“It’s not just students getting sick – it’s the staff too,” she said.
The parent of a student at the school told the Bronx Times the issue may have been exacerbated when the district held a holiday breakfast party at the nearby middle school, causing the virus to spread to the older students and their families.
Students who recover from the illness end up getting sick again once they return to school, said the parent, who asked not to be named.
“We don’t believe the school was cleaned properly,” the parent said.
The parent also voiced concern that soap had not regularly been provided in the school bathrooms until the outbreak occurred, and that students were responsible for bringing their own with them to school.
Holness insisted that the claim was not true, and that soap and paper towels were, in fact, being provided.
To help prevent the spread of the norovirus, 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 are more effective than alcohol-based hand sanitizer lotions, according to the organization.