Mesa County Valley Closes All 43 Schools Amid Stomach Bug Outbreak

The outbreak of two highly contagious viruses has prompted the Mesa County Valley School District to close all schools until after Thanksgiving break.

Mesa County Valley Closes All 43 Schools Amid Stomach Bug Outbreak

A school district in Colorado has closed all of its schools following a fast-moving outbreak of a contagious virus.

Officials with the Mesa County Valley School District 51, which serves more than 22,000 students in Grand Junction, announced on Wednesday that all of its schools will be closed until Dec. 2, according to USA Today.

The virus is “extremely contagious and spreading quickly across our schools,” said district nursing coordinator Tanya Marvin. “In addition, it appears that there is now a second, related virus that is affecting students, some of whom have already been ill in recent weeks. The combination of the two has created an unprecedented spread of illness.”

Hundreds of students and staff have contracted the illnesses. According to the district, vomiting is a symptom of both viruses and the latest virus can cause a fever.

“We understand that a districtwide closure is an inconvenience to families and a rare step to take,” Superintendent Diana Sirko wrote in a statement. “While our custodial crews are working tirelessly to disinfect schools, the rapid spread of illness has led us to the conclusion that closing all schools to allow our custodial crews and environmental health and safety team to perform an intense cleaning of the school buildings is the best course of action.”

The outbreak is believed to have started at a high school, which closed on Thursday, Nov. 14. In the following days, the outbreak spread to five other schools, according to ARS Technica.

Health officials have not officially identified the cause of the illnesses but suspect it is the norovirus, a highly contagious germ that causes vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains, and typically lasts for one to three days.

The virus spreads through direct contact with an infected person, consuming contaminated food or touching tainted surfaces, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those with norovirus illness can shed billions of particles but it only takes a few to make others ill.

The district is the 14th largest in the state and includes 24 elementary schools, eight middle schools, four high schools, three charter schools, two K-12 schools, an alternative high school and an alternative middle/high school.

The West Grand School District, a nearby district, also closed its schools Friday and for the rest of this week.

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy’s mother, brother, sister-in-law and a handful of cousins are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her husband, her son and her dog.

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