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Virus sickens more than 100 middle school students in Oak Park

An Oak Park middle school was bracing Tuesday to see if a highly contagious virus that has sickened more than 100 students had run its course.

Brad Benioff, principal of Medea Creek Middle School, said the number of students calling in sick had declined to 90 on Monday, down from 130 on Friday. Ventura County health officials have identified the culprit as norovirus, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains and other gastrointestinal problems.

“Our hope is that by today or tomorrow, the virus will have run its course,” Benioff said. “I feel awful for the kids who got it. Hopefully we can break this cycle and get everybody back to school.”

Health officials were investigating the cause of the school outbreak, which began Wednesday when a couple of students began vomiting and went home. Benioff estimated that between 100 and 150 students became ill -– about 10% of the school’s student population.

“The virus seems to have spread fairly quickly from the cafeteria area,” he said. “There might have been contaminated food.”

There have been no reports of any student requiring hospitalization, Benioff said. The illness usually runs its course in 24 hours, but parents are being asked to keep their children home for another 48 hours after symptoms disappear.

A few cases have been reported among high school siblings of Medea Creek students, but otherwise the virus does not appear to have spread to the Oak Park Unified School District’s other schools, he said.

Officials brought in a professional cleaning firm Monday to scrub down the school and hand sanitizer is being provided to students to use as they enter and exit classrooms. School staff have also been provided with disinfectant wipes for doorknobs, light switches and other places of contact.

The school canceled a dance scheduled for Friday, but Benioff said he was hopeful that a seventh-grade field trip to Catalina Island can proceed as scheduled next week.

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--Teresa Watanabe

 
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