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Santa Monica middle school reopens after possible norovirus exposure

John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica reopened Monday after crews sanitized surfaces in the school in an effort to eradicate any traces of a gastrointestinal virus that sickened some students las
John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica reopened Monday after crews sanitized surfaces in the school in an effort to eradicate any traces of a gastrointestinal virus that sickened some students last week.
(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

A Santa Monica middle school reopened Monday after being ordered closed late last week after a potential norovirus outbreak, officials said.

John Adams Middle School officials on Friday canceled classes and closed the campus for cleaning after dozens of students came down with symptoms akin to norovirus, which typically include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, aches and fever, after a recent science trip to Yosemite National Park.

Principal Steve Richardson wrote in a letter to parents Sunday that the breakout has been addressed “with an abundance of caution and the interest of community safety in mind.”

Classrooms, restrooms and locker rooms were cleaned Friday with special products recommended by public health officials that are known to kill the virus, Richardson said.

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“This method, called terminal cleaning, is in an attempt to decrease the amount of the virus,” he wrote. “Based on consultation and guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, we expect that these actions will significantly limit potential exposure from the school facilities.”

Richardson stressed frequent hand washing is critical to preventing the spread of the illness. He also wrote that anyone with symptoms of the virus must stay home for 72 hours after all symptoms are gone.

“We understand this can put a lot of stress on a family when kids are home from school, however it is so important to not come back early and expose others to the virus while still contagious,” he wrote.

County health officials and school administrators traced the outbreak of the illness to a five-day trip to Yosemite attended by about 190 seventh-graders, parents and teachers in late January.

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Some travelers began showing symptoms of the illness during the trip. Officials say infected students may have spread the sickness to classmates and to siblings who attend other schools within the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District when they returned to campus.

 It is not clear how many students have been affected.

On the trip, students rode by bus to Yosemite and slept in tents in Curry Village and dormitories in Crane Flat. The trip was billed as a way to stay “far away from any shiny screens and electronics,” according to the school’s website.

Norovirus is a contagious organism that can be spread through contaminated food or water and human interaction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 19 million and 21 million illnesses are caused by norovirus each year, and it is considered the most common cause of food-borne disease outbreaks in the United States.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @HannahFryTCN on Twitter.

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