Suffolk County Health Commissioner Reports Stomach Virus Outbreak at Babylon High School
Residents advised to practice safe hand hygiene
Suffolk County Executive Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott today announced that the Suffolk County Department of Health Services was alerted by Babylon High School officials that on Friday, March 17, more than 80 students were absent from school due gastrointestinal illness.
Within hours, the department’s public health sanitarians visited the school to inspect the kitchen and food service areas. Officials from the department’s bureau of public health protection found no indication that the outbreak originated in the school’s cafeteria.
Though lab testing has not yet confirmed a cause of the outbreak, Dr. Pigott said that norovirus is suspected to be the cause.
“Norovirus has been circulating throughout the US for the last few months as it does every year, though an increase in cases compared to our COVID-19 pandemic years was reported by the CDC in February,” said Dr. Pigott. “We advise people to continue to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and disinfect surfaces to avoid coming into contact with pathogens that cause norovirus.”
Norovirus is the leading cause of vomiting, diarrhea, and foodborne illness in the United States. It spreads through direct contact with a person with norovirus, most often by caring for them, sharing food, or eating food handled by them. People can also get norovirus by touching surfaces touched by someone who has norovirus.
People are most contagious when they are sick with norovirus illness and for a few days after they feel better. Symptoms of norovirus illness begin suddenly, typically around 12 to 48 hours after a person is exposed to the virus and resolve within two to three days. The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain. Other symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches. There is no treatment for norovirus.
The health department’s caseworkers are investigating the outbreak.
“We have spoken to the families of many of the children who were infected and we are pleased that the outbreak was largely contained to the high school, with only a few cases in students in other schools in the district,” said Dr. Shaheda Iftikhar, chief deputy health commissioner and director of the department’s division of public health.