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November 28, 2012
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Oakland closes schools as virus strikes students

OAKLAND — Oakland School District students were sent home at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday as an illness rapidly spread through all grades, reminiscent of the virus that closed a Roseburg elementary school two weeks ago.

Superintendent Nanette Hagen said about 100 students were sick by midday, about one-fifth of the student population. The symptoms included diarrhea and vomiting.

The elementary, middle and high schools were affected. The district plans to reopen the schools Monday, but urged students who are still ill to stay home.

The illness may be another outbreak of the highly contagious norovirus, the illness that struck Fir Grove Elementary students and staff members.

“It’s probably noro, but we can’t say for sure until we have tests to confirm it,” Douglas County Environmental Health Specialist Caroline Regan said today.

Regan said she doubts the outbreaks at Fir Grove and Oakland are related. A lapse in hygiene can quickly lead to an outbreak, she said. “It just spreads so easily.”

The illness struck three days before Oakland High plays Portland Christian at Hillsboro Stadium for the Class 2A state football championship.

Coach Ben Lane said today that nine of the team’s 38 players were ill Wednesday, but that he expected all of them to play Saturday.

“All my text messages have come back positive this morning. All the kids are fine. Barring anything else, we’re all back to normal today,” he said.

The team did not practice Wednesday, though team members met after school, and Lane gave them game tapes to study at home.

e_SDLqWe considered practicing, and probably could’ve, but we thought it’d probably be best to give them a day away from each other. It’s not too big of a deal. We’ll make up for it today,” he said.

Hagen said the schools will be sanitized with bleach, and the administration is working with Douglas County health officials to determine whether the illness is a norovirus, which struck students at Fir Grove Elementary.

Oakland’s elementary, middle and high schools share a campus and a cafeteria, which allowed the virus to spread quickly through the whole district.

Hagen said the virus came on very fast. Her own son, Oakland High School freshman Kyle Shubert, was fine Tuesday night when he returned from basketball practice at 9 p.m. but was violently ill by midnight, she said.

“It’s not pleasant. I’ve never seen someone be that sick,” she said.

Few students were home sick Monday, she said. As the outbreak rapidly worsened, the administration decided to send everyone home.

“We just decided to err on the side of safety,” she said.

Regan said she was happy Oakland schools closed. If it is a norovirus, the ailment is highly contagious. Norovirus is shed in the vomit and stool of people who are infected, which can lead to contaminated food, water and surfaces.

The norovirus outbreak at Fir Grove affected half the students and staff. The school closed at midday on a Thursday and reopened the following Tuesday.

Regan said she was not aware of any reoccurrence of the virus since Fir Grove was scrubbed.

“It seems like they’re back to normal,” she said. “There have been no more complaints from parents.”

The county health department is working with the Oregon Health Authority to investigate the outbreak in Oakland. Regan said test results probably won’t be available until next week.

County health officials urge parents to keep children home if they have symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever or stomach cramps. People who have been ill should avoid handling or preparing food for others for 48 hours after symptoms are gone.

Hand washing before and after meals and after using the toilet or changing diapers will help reduce the spread of the illness to others. Bathrooms and other surfaces potentially contaminated with vomit or stool should be disinfected with a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water, according to the health department.

• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.


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The News-Review Updated Nov 29, 2012 11:42AM Published Nov 29, 2012 03:00PM Copyright 2012 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.