Metro

Students, staff at South Boston elementary school sickened by possible norovirus

More than 60 students were absent from a South Boston elementary school on Wednesday as a highly contagious virus, believed to be norovirus, runs through the school.

Approximately 140 students and 10 staff members have become sick with suspected norovirus over the past few days, said Boston public school spokesman Lee McGuire. Sixty-one students missed school on Wednesday.

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Robby Chisholm, principal of the Condon Elementary School, sent out an automated call to parents Tuesday night informing them about the virus and the school’s efforts to contain it. The elementary school has 800 students and 65 staff members.

Due to the contagiousness of the virus, Chisholm said students who are currently home sick must stay home until they have no symptoms for 24 hours.

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Norovirus can be transmitted directly by an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can cause stomach and intestinal inflammation, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Chisholm said in the alert the school has been working closely with the Boston Public Health Commission and the city’s Inspectional Services Department to sanitize the building.

“We have taken steps to sanitize equipment, have added extra soap and more hand sanitizer, and tomorrow we will send fliers home with additional information on what norovirus is and how we are preventing further spread,” Chisholm said in the alert. “Our school nursing department is also sending extra support.”

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In an effort to prevent further spread of the virus, teams worked in the school Tuesday night to sanitize the building, Chisholm said.

McGuire said the virus has not affected other schools in Boston.

McKenzie Ridings, spokeswoman for the Boston Public Health Commission, said it is common for norovirus to spread quickly in areas where there is a high concentration of people — such as in schools, college dorms, and workplaces.

“We really push to make sure people are washing their hands, as it is the single most important way to make sure the virus doesn’t spread,” Ridings said.

Trisha Thadani can be reached at trisha.thadani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TrishaThadani.
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