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|Unidentified Virus Spreads Among Santa Monica Students, Forces School Closure|
By Jonathan Friedman
February 3, 2017 -- With 80 students and ten teachers at John Adams Middle School (JAMS) sick as of Thursday from what is believed to be the same illness, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) decided to cancel classes for Friday.
No students and teachers are allowed on campus, and nearly all school activities, including the Astro Camp, will not take place through Sunday, school principal Steve Richardson told JAMS families in an email sent Thursday evening.
"Field sports" will still be able to take place during the closure days at JAMS.
The campus will undergo what Richardson called a "terminal cleaning" under the “guidance” of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker called the sickness a “gastrointestinal illness” that is possibly Norovirus.
Students and teachers were likely exposed to the virus during a five-day, seventh-grade trip last week to Yosemite, according to the District.
Several students showed signs of the illness during the trip, wrote Pinsker in a media release. Students from dozens of school districts were possibly exposed.
“The challenge with this highly contagious illness is that a child or adult may still feel well when they are contagious, making containment difficult,” Pinsker wrote.
She added that the illness appears to have spread to students who did not attend the trip and “possibly spread to a few siblings attending other SMMUSD schools in Santa Monica.”
A health alert was issued to SMMUSD parents, guardians and teachers Thursday morning, and the decision to close JAMS was made later in the day “after careful consideration and in adherence with the recommendation” of the health department, Richardson wrote.
He added, “[County health officials] anticipate that due to its highly contagious nature and the escalation in affected cases this week, this infectious cycle could extend weeks at JAMS and spread to multiple campuses unless immediate measures are taken.”
The health department says symptoms of gastrointestinal illnesses usually begin within 48 hours of exposure and can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.
People suffering from those symptoms or their family members are asked to contact the department at publichealth.lacounty.gov.
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