Health department officials from Clark and Rowan counties believe norovirus is responsible for an outbreak of gastrointestinal symptoms in both counties.
“I¿feel very comfortable in saying the bug is norovirus, but you like to have enough sampling to make sure, and that’s where we’re at right now,” said Bobby Ratliff, director of the Gateway District Health Department.
After a clogging competition at the Morehead Conference Center Saturday, Aug. 13, several dancers and spectators started experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms. Dancers from Winchester’s Studio One School of Dance were among the cloggers attending the competition.
The Clark County Health Department became aware of the situation Thursday after Teresa Cowan, Clark County school nurse supervisor, reported that several students who attended the competition had missed school earlier in the week. Most students affected were back in school by Wednesday, said Karen King, Clark County Health Department nurse administrator. Local officials learned Friday from the state health department that there was a confirmed outbreak and Clark County was involved.
Ratliff said officials believe the virus was brought into the clogging competition by a dancer or spectator. Although norovirus can be spread through contaminated food, Ratliff said there was no common food or drink source among those who came down with symptoms.
“Some people didn’t drink. Some people didn’t even eat there. It appears this was brought in,” Ratliff said.
Although Ratliff said he can only confirm 97 cases of the virus, 900 people attended the event, and there are likely several more unconfirmed cases.
King said norovirus is easily spread and proper handwashing is the best way to prevent infection.
“If people are practicing good handwashing or toileting, that helps us contain it more,” King said.
Ratliff stressed that hands must be washed with soap and water, not just alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
“That won’t cut it,” Ratliff said. “Norovirus is very contagious, and my No. 1 message here is handwashing.”
Household surfaces should be cleaned with a diluted bleach solution or cleaning product that specifically says it will kill norovirus.
“Your normal household cleaners are not strong enough to kill the norovirus bug,” Ratliff said.
The only way to confirm whether the symptoms are caused by norovirus is to test stool samples. Ratliff said the final samples were tested on Monday and the results will be available today. He and officials at Clark County Health Department said the symptoms and mode of transmission all point to norovirus, and the stool samples already tested showed norovirus.
Because many people don’t go to the doctor for gastrointestinal symptoms, King said it is hard to get an exact number of infected people. Doctors have been asked to notify the health department if any patients come in with symptoms consistent with norovirus.
Dancers attended the competition from Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee.
If anyone experiences symptoms for more than 48 hours or becomes dehydrated, King said they should be examined by a doctor.
“It hits quick and hard. People feel extremely ill,” King said.
Contact Rachel Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org.