Gastrointestinal disease explodes in Ala. elementary school; 773 kids out

Highly contagious norovirus is the leading suspect; four other area schools affected.

Mar 1, 2024 - 08:30
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Gastrointestinal disease explodes in Ala. elementary school; 773 kids out
An electron micrograph of norovirus.

Enlarge / An electron micrograph of norovirus. (credit: Getty| BSIP)

Officials in Alabama have shut down an elementary school for the rest of the week and are conducting a deep clean after 773 of the school's 974 students were absent Wednesday amid an explosive outbreak of gastrointestinal illness.

Local media reported that only 29 students were absent from Fairhope West Elementary School on Tuesday. However, the situation escalated quickly on Wednesday as word spread of a stomach bug going around the Gulf Coast school. A spokesperson for the county school district told AL.com that 773 students and 50 staff were absent Wednesday. It's unclear how many of the absences are due to sickness or precaution.

Health officials are now investigating the cause of the gastrointestinal outbreak, collecting specimens for testing. So far, officials are working under the assumption that it is norovirus, a highly infectious gastrointestinal bug that can survive hand sanitizer and transmit easily from surfaces, food, and water. The symptoms of the unidentified illness align with norovirus: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and nausea.

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