Health Dept: Schools using 'inappropriate' cleaning products

child laying on couch reading book

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ore. -- The Douglas County Health Department says the recent outbreaks that shut down Fir Grove in Roseburg and the entire Oakland School District were both identified as Norovirus.

According to Caroline Regan, Douglas County Environmental Health Specialist, the results of testing so far indicate that the Oakland outbreak was found more in students who ate in the cafeteria. That facility is shared by all three Oakland Schools.

Although officials say they can't pinpoint one specific food source, the investigation is continuing to determine if the two outbreaks are related.

In a release sent out Monday afternoon, authorities say that at both schools, "inappropriate" cleaning supplies were used.  They say that the products used were not able to disinfect norovirus.

The schools have implemented new products that are bleach based and will kill the virus.

Officials say that most of the attendance in Oakland was back to normal, except for the elementary school.

Here is the press release from the Health Department:

Local and state health officials are continuing the investigation of an outbreak of norovirus infections among students and staff at Oakland Elementary School, Lincoln Middle School, and Oakland High School.  School attendance Monday had returned to near normal at the middle and high schools, but was still elevated above normal at the elementary school, with reports of vomiting and diarrhea.  Stool specimens tested positive for norovirus, the most common viral cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States.

According to Caroline Regan, Douglas County Environmental Health Specialist, the results of Health Department interviews suggest that sick students were more likely to have eaten lunch at the cafeteria than were students who were not sick.  All three Oakland schools share a common cafeteria.  Although no specific food was identified as the source, sick persons can contaminate uncooked fruits and vegetables and surfaces, which then spread norovirus to other patrons.  The investigation is ongoing to determine if there is a connection between the Oakland schools outbreak and a norovirus outbreak that occurred last month at Fir Grove Elementary. Norovirus circulates in the community at any given time.

During both the Oakland schools and Fir Grove Elementary outbreaks, Public Health found that Oakland and Roseburg school districts were using cleaning products that were inappropriate for disinfecting norovirus.  Both school districts have implemented new cleaning products that are bleach-based and effective against norovirus.

Norovirus infections spread easily from person to person. The virus is shed in the vomit and stool of people who are infected, which can lead to contaminated food, water, and environmental surfaces—all potential sources of new infections. Noroviruses are the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) in the United States, as well as the most common recognized cause of outbreaks. 

Good hand washing before and after meals and after using the toilet or changing diapers will help reduce the spread of this and many other germs in the community.  If people have multiple bathrooms at home, it is recommended that one be reserved for the use of those with vomiting or diarrhea during the course of illness.  Bathrooms and other surfaces potentially contaminated with vomit or stool should be disinfected with a 5000 ppm bleach solution (1:10 dilution of household bleach) if possible.