219 students absent as virus spreads at elementary school

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For the second consecutive day, more than 200 students at Woodland Hills Elementary School are absent after many of them became ill earlier in the week. Five staff members are also absent on Thursday.

The number of kids who are in attendance here at the elementary school continued to dwindle throughout the day.  "Because of the illness going on I guess my dad doesn’t want her to catch anything.  So I’m just here to pick up my sister,” explains Dauntre Jackson. 

On Monday, the Harris County Health Department began looking into why several children were showing signs of severely upset stomachs and going home sick.  In fact, 78 kids were absent Wednesday and that number jumped to 205 kids out of school a day later.  The Houston Health Department is now handling the case.

"It could be a Noro-like virus or it could be something else.  We’re looking to find some kids who may have gone to the doctor and had a specimen taken,” explains Kathy Barton with the Houston Health Department.

Norovirus is highly contagious and spread through food and water that’s contaminated during preparation.  You also get it by coming in contact with an infected person which is why it’s easily spread in crowded environments “Such as schools, jails or dormitories and cruise ships,” adds Barton.  Barton says Norovirus is still contagious a couple days after you begin feeling better.  So she’s encouraging parents to keep kids home from school up to two days after their symptoms go away.

Humble ISD brought in a special cleaning crew to disinfect the elementary including sterilizing desks, doorknobs, and fogging the building and buses with an antibacterial and antiviral mist.  Although surfaces in the school kitchen were sanitized with bleach, box lunches were prepared off-site and brought in.

"I just took my daughter out of school as a precautionary measure.  I talked with the principal.  They let us know only about 20 students were really sick that called in sick and everyone else is being over protective moms.  So I appreciate that from one mom to another and I’m just going to take her home and make sure everything’s ok,” smiles Nicole Keenan as she leaves the school after picking up her daughter early. 

In addition to cautious parents, Barton reminds us today is Take Your Kid to Work Day, so they’re not sure how many kids actually stayed home due to illness.  The special cleaning will continue every evening until no one else shows signs of the illness.  Remember, one of the best ways to avoid getting sick is to simply wash your hands.