Health Advisory- Norovirus Illnesses in Local Communities 12/10/17

TO:                   School District Superintendents 
FROM:             Northeast Tri County Health District
DATE:               December 10, 2017
RE:                   Health Advisory- Norovirus Illnesses in Local Communities

Currently communities in Stevens County (including Kettle Falls, Colville and Chewelah) are experiencing a Norovirus outbreak.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and small intestines) which leads to abdominal pain, extensive vomiting, and diarrhea.  The virus is spread easily.  It is found in the vomit and fecal material of infected people and is typically transmitted by:

  • Having direct physical contact with people who are infected with the norovirus (for example caring for or shaking hands with an ill person then touching your hands to your mouth)
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • Touching surfaces or objects with norovirus on them and then putting your hands in your mouth.

People with norovirus typically show symptoms within 12 to 48 hours after exposure. They will experience vomiting and diarrhea typically for 1-3 days.

Sick individuals are contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick and typically for 48 hours after symptoms stop. 
School settings can be particularly impacted by the virus.  Because of this, we want to advise you and your staff of the outbreak locally, knowing that it can easily move from one community to another.  We also want to share ways to prevent and control the spread of the virus within school settings, the mainstays of which include:

  • Minimize contact between well and ill persons:  Those staff/students who are sick with the illness should not return to school until at least 48 hours after resolution of symptoms (or 72 hours if they are food workers).  Those that become sick at school should be directed home as quickly as possible.
  • Environmental disinfection:  The use of chemical disinfectants is one of the key approaches to interrupt norovirus spread from contaminated surfaces, such as bathrooms, drinking fountains, and high touch surfaces.  Sodium hypochlorite has been widely recommended as a disinfectant against norovirus on hard, nonporous surfaces (at concentrations of 1,000 – 5,000 ppm or 5-25 tablespoons household bleach (5.25%) per gallon of water.)  Other commercial products are effective against norovirus as well.  Staff should ensure the product is an EPA registered product and is effective against norovirus and be used appropriately. 
  • Proper hand hygiene:  This includes frequent washing with soap and running water for a minimum of 20 seconds.  Alcohol-based sanitizers should only be used as an adjunct between hand washing and should not be considered a substitute for soap/water hand washing.
  • Careful Food Handling Practices: This includes ensuring if food service staff feels ill, they stop working with food immediately.  Those that are sick should remain off work until 72 hours after symptoms resolve.  It is also appropriate to review food handling practices to ensure food is protected from potentially being contaminated with norovirus (no bare hand contact with ready to eat foods, cleaning processes, etc.)

For additional information please go to:
For any other advice and recommendations, please reach out to a Northeast Tri County Health District office located in your respective county.