Over 600 Students in Utah Stayed Home from School Due to Norovirus Outbreak

More than 600 students attending public schools in Utah reportedly stayed home from school on Thursday, after receiving a letter about a norovirus outbreak

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More than 600 students attending public schools in Utah’s Alpine School District stayed home from school on Thursday, after receiving a letter warning them about a norovirus outbreak, according to multiple reports.

The school district distributed letters to parents that an outbreak of the illness — which causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea — was affecting schools in Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs, a representative for the Utah County Health Department told KUTV.

“This letter is to inform you that an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness has occurred in several schools nearby the school your child attends,” the letter said, according to Fox 13 Now. “Because this illness has spread so quickly, it appears highly contagious and may likely enter your school.”

The outlet reported that six schools in the affected district have sent home kids with the virus.

Utah County Health Department Public Information Officer Aislynn Tolman-Hill confirmed to PEOPLE that there was one confirmed case that a student from an Orem, Utah, school had contracted the virus.

She went on to tell PEOPLE that it’s difficult to say how many children staying home from school are experiencing or recovering from symptoms of the virus, as some parents are keeping their kids at home so they don’t become ill.

The letter also advised that if parents thought their child was exhibiting any symptoms of the illness, they should be kept home “until 72 hours after vomiting and diarrhea have ended,” according to KUTV.

Tolman-Hill told PEOPLE that even if a child feels better before that amount of time is up, they could still be contagious.

Parents were also advised to take extra precautions regarding any of their sick child’s siblings who attend different schools, so that the illness would not spread further.

“It really can spread like wildfire,” she added. “It really is rough.”

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Norovirus causes symptoms similar to those of food poisoning, including vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Because the bug is extremely contagious, it can spread easily in places like schools, daycare centers, nursing homes and cruise ships.

A person usually develops symptoms within 12 to 48 hours after being exposed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people begin to feel better within one to three days.

As norovirus is a viral (not bacterial) infection, antibiotics can not be taken to treat the virus. To help the recovery process, people affected with norovirus should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

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