Schools hit by tough virus and bacterium

February 6, 2009 4:25:05 AM PST
Two health problems across our region are causing some concern among health officials. In Cherry Hill, the concern is the spread of the Norovirus and in Philadelphia, officials are warning of a major increase in the spread of a bacterial infection known as Shigellosis.

At a time when many children were enjoying themselves skating on ice and other sporting events, Philadelphia health officials warn that they have seen a significant increase in the number of reported cases of Shigellosis, a bacteria which causes diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.

"Since Sept. 2008, we've had more than 200 cases when usually during the same period we may have 10 cases," Dr. Esther Chernack of the Philadelphia Health Department said.

Officials say most of the cases are occurring among children between the preschool age of 2 to 5. The bacterium is spread through improper hygiene.

"The most important thing that anyone can do is pay careful attention to hand-washing, because that's how we would interrupt or stop the spread of the germ," Dr. Chernack said.

Meanwhile in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, there is concern about another health problem. This one is viral.

The Resurrection Catholic Elementary School on Kings Highway will be closed Friday after 94 out of 361 students were absent Thursday, another 17 sent home, after they were stricken with the Norovirus, a stomach virus which causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Dave Schmotzer says the bug spread quickly among his four siblings. "My one child is 19, my daughter is 16, other son is 14, the youngest one is 8, all the same symptoms, very lethargic, laying around, couldn't even enjoy the Super Bowl," Shmotzer said.

The elementary school will be closed to allow maintenance crews to thoroughly sanitize areas of high contact, in particular desktops and parents are being urged to keep their sick children home.

"We can do all the sanitizing we want, but if children are still coming in sick instead of staying home then we're still going to have an issue," Karen Morgan of school maintenance said.

Health officials say both Shigellosis and the Norovirus can be resolved without medical treatment, but some cases may require hospitalization.

If in doubt, consult with your doctor.

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