A school district in Colorado has taken the unusual step of closing all 46 of its schools after an "extremely contagious virus" has spread through the student body.
According to a statement from the Mesa County Valley School District 51, which serves more than 22,000 students, the school district has closed schools on Thursday and Friday, and plan to reopen after the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We are taking this highly unusual action because this virus is extremely contagious and spreading quickly across our schools,” Tanya Marvin, the district’s nursing coordinator, said in a statement. "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.”
More than 1,000 students were absent and sick home from school this week, a spokesperson said.
The disease reportedly resembles a "norovirus outbreak," however, school officials cautioned that they do not have a confirmation on what the illness is exactly.
"We’re hearing reports that a person might feel just fine, and in less than an hour’s time have a vomiting episode, sometimes in public places," the agency said in a statement. “That’s causing the further spread of the illness and making it more concerning than a typical gastrointestinal virus, much like norovirus."
Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, with some reporting a fever. Fortunately, the viral illness seems to be short-lived, with many patients recovering within 12-24 hours of coming down with the disease.
About a dozen schools in the district needed extra cleaning services earlier this week after more than 10% of the students missed classes. Custodial crews are "working tirelessly to disinfect schools" the school district said in the statement.
This marks the first time the district has closed all its schools because of an illness, Superintendent Diana Sirko said.
"We understand that a districtwide closure is an inconvenience to families and a rare step to take. 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 school district added.