Parents of 90 sickened Hanover students fret over mystery illness

Posted at 6:47 PM, May 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-01 18:47:01-04

HANOVER, Va. -- As CBS 6 first reported, 75 Hanover kids have been out sick with a virus since last week.  Just today another 15 cases were reported, which brings the total to 90 cases. Health officials believe the number is probably higher because some parents have not taken their children to the doctor yet.

The Hanover Health Department confirmed in a letter to parents that they have been notified about a number of cases of vomiting and diarrhea among children who attend Cold Harbor Elementary School.

And while the focus has been on the school building itself, other Hanover parents told CBS 6 that they're worried too.

The rotavirus is the likely culprit.

Several parents said they are concerned that not enough information is going out from the school system.

Kim Thies has seen her two girls get sick before, but nothing like this.

"Not this violent of an illness, the onset is really fast, you go from having an upset stomach to intense stomach pain, a lot of vomiting and diarrhea,” she said. "It was not fun.”

“Lot's of clean up, lot's of sanitizing products and had to scrub the house top to bottom, three different times,” she added.

Thies said her concern as a parent is that she never knew there was a problem, until her family came down with symptoms.

"I'm not a parent at Cold Harbor so I didn't receive any sort of notice for my kids and I could have begun taking precautionary measures much sooner, as a parent, if I knew there was an epidemic going around.”

At Walnut Grove Children's Learning Center they're also seeing symptoms.

"We're seeing some sharing of the virus, as siblings get it, who are in school, it's passed on to the younger children and we're seeing some of them come down with it,” said Carolyn Hardison, with Walnut Grove Children's Learning Center.

They are working hard, just like Cold Harbor Elementary to stop the spread.

"We have to use a lot of bleach, a lot of sanitizing of toys and surfaces,” said Hardison.

Even that is not always enough.

"I know we did our best to sanitize as it passed through our house, still every single one of us, got it,” Thies said.

In a letter to parents, officials noted that “there are several common contagious viruses that cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that spread rapidly in group settings.”

The letter noted that parents should look out for “Symptoms usually included low-grade fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches which sometimes accompany the gastro-intestinal symptoms.”

Ill children were encouraged to consume fluids to prevent dehydration.

School officials also asked parents to keep their child home for at least 24 hours after symptoms stop if they become ill with nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.

The school warned that the most common way of contracting viruses of the type going around the school is “by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the mouth before handwashing.”

Tips to battle the spread of such viruses include frequent handwashing with warm water and soap, especially after using the restroom and before eating or preparing food.

Also, to reduce the risk of spreading it among household, officials asked parents to designate a separate bathroom (if available) to be used exclusively by the sick individual, wear disposable gloves when cleaning soiled areas, carefully dispose of paper towels used for cleaning in a separate plastic waste bag, seal the waste bag and dispose, then wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least one minute.

All family members were encouraged to wash their hands frequently.

The Hanover Health Department is working with the school to control the spread of this infection.