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Norovirus outbreak suspected in numerous Santa Barbara County schools

Summer break might be on the minds of many students but for staff at Orcutt Union School District, they’re trying to manage a potential Norovirus outbreak. Many students at various campuses are dealing with this gastrointestinal illness synonymous to Norovirus with symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. “Oh I got scared – I really got scared because this is my great granddaughter and I love her and I don’t want anything happening to her,” says Ralphie Williams, Great-Grandmother to a third grader at Ralph Dunlap Elementary School, one of the schools believed to have a Norovirus outbreak. She says she was frightened when she got the email about the possible virus on Friday, telling us: “I thought what am I supposed to do now? I have to be on top of things. Is this gonna get out of hand – is this gonna be an epidemic – what is it? Superintendent Dr. Debbie Blow says she felt it was necessary to notify parents after a significant number of students were absent. “We had an increase in our absences by about 10-15 percent last week and the schools were reporting similar symptoms as far as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea,” Blow explains. Blow says the five schools listed below were thoroughly sanitized over the three day weekend in order to stop the illness from spreading. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department suggests students with symptoms need to stay home for 48 hours in order to keep the infections down. “They need to stay home when they are ill and even for some time after when they have recovered and that’s because this is so infectious, if that ill student returns to school too soon, they’ll continue to spread it to other people,” says Dr. Charity Dean. Now at this time, the county’s Public Health Department is still working on tests to confirm if in fact students here have Norovirus. They say they have to get samples when people are still sick which is a challenge. They hope to have the results later this week.


ORIGINAL STORY: On Friday, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department released a shocking report saying they suspect a possible Norovirus outbreak in several northern Santa Barbara County Schools.

Schools in the Orcutt School District, which include Alice Shaw, Joe Nightingale, Patterson Road, Pine Grove and Ralph Dunlap schools, as well as Manzanita Charter School on Vandenberg Air Force Base, are reporting numerous cases of gastrointestinal symptoms consistent with the norovirus, according to the Public Health Department.

While it’s not 100 percent known if the Norovirus is to blame for these cases of gastrointestinal symptoms, health officials say the outbreaks are very likely Norovirus and the Public Health Department is working on conducting appropriate lab testing.

All of the schools involved are working with the Public Health Department and implementing cleaning methods and other necessary measures to stop the spread of the virus, the report says.

The Santa Barbara Health Department says despite Norovirus peaking in the winter months (January/February), they have been seeing more outbreaks of Norovirus in the spring time months throughout the state.

Norovirus is known for sweeping through schools, office buildings and other close quarters while infecting a large number of people. Symptoms typically begin about 24 to 48 hours after close exposure to Norovirus but can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure.

The following is information released by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department in their report related to Norovirus:


People may feel very sick and vomit multiple times and/or have many loose stools a day. Most people get better within 1 or 2 days, and they have no long-term health effects related to their illness. However, shedding of the virus may continue for 1-2 weeks. At times, affected individuals, usually the very young and elderly may become dehydrated as they are unable to drink enough liquids to replace the liquids lost because of vomiting and diarrhea.


The spread of Norovirus can be prevented by practicing proper hand hygiene. Important strategies include washing hands with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating and preparing or handling food. The community should be aware that with these reported outbreaks folks should use good hand hygiene and stay home if sick until 48-hours without symptoms.

For more information on the Norovirus, click here.

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