Tests: Norovirus the culprit in Hellstern illness

Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:47 a.m.

Test results confirmed that norovirus sickened hundreds of children at Hellstern Middle School last week, School District officials said today.

Norovirus causes a person’s stomach and intestines or both to become inflamed, leading to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is highly contagious.

About one-third of Hellstern’s roughly 900 sixth- and seventh-graders either didn’t come to school at all or went home early Thursday because of illness. Some staff members also were affected by a stomach bug.

School at Hellstern was canceled Friday to give students time to recover. Because of today’s holiday, the school won’t reopen until Tuesday.

“Classes will resume at all schools, including Hellstern, Tuesday morning,” district spokesman Rick Schaeffer said in an email this morning. “Hellstern has been completely disinfected and every bus utilized by the Springdale district was sterilized Thursday evening. We are anticipating school as normal. Obviously we will be monitoring the attendance at Hellstern.”

Every stool sample collected from sickened children tested positive for norovirus, Schaeffer said. State health officials had suspected the norovirus last week, but were awaiting test results for confirmation.

Parents with children who had gotten sick and were contacted by the school Friday reported their children already were doing much better, Schaeffer said.