Health & Medicine

Norovirus outbreak confirmed at Laguna Middle School leaves 80 sick

Laguna Middle School canceled its annual eighth grade dance Friday after about 80 eighth graders and one teacher came down with a highly contagious norovirus.

Dr. Penny Borenstein with the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department said the department tested several of the students after they became ill and confirmed they had the norovirus. She said the likely cause of the illness was an eighth-grade potluck luncheon at Cuesta College on June 7, though the health department won’t conduct an investigation into the exact cause.

“It looks like probably something at the luncheon, or maybe even someone, might have caused it, though that it just a guess based on the timeline of when everyone became sick,” she said. “Because school is out, and because there is no long-term risk, I think the idea is that we would just kind of let it go.”

Borenstein said outbreaks like this are not uncommon with communal gatherings — especially when food is present — though she couldn’t recall a similar large school outbreak in recent memory.

The highly contagious virus causes diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain, and usually lasts one to three days. It can be caught from an infected person, through contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

Borenstein said in light of the outbreak, the health department and school officials decided to postpone the annual eight grade dance, which was scheduled for Friday. It will now take place June 17, according to a post on the school PTA’s Facebook page.

To prevent further spread of the virus, Borenstein said infected patients should wash their hands carefully and often with soap and water, and cautioned people to not share food or eating utensils. The virus can stay alive for two weeks or more after the symptoms go away, so it is important to continue washing your hands often during this time.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie