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Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
12:17 PM Sun, Nov. 18th

Black Mountain School near normal after bout with whole-school illness

GOLDEN VALLEY - Although 60 students still were absent due to the mysterious illness that struck a week earlier, things were getting back to normal on Nov. 21 at Black Mountain Elementary School.

Just six days earlier, a still-unidentified illness marked by vomiting, diarrhea and fever led to 215 students and eight staff members either calling in sick or going home after school started.

Principal Becky Collins said the absentee rate from the gastrointestinal illness was well above normal the next two days; about 190 students stayed home on Nov. 16 and 150 were out on Nov. 17.

"Some kids came back, but their siblings stayed home," she said.

Jennifer McNally, Mohave County Department of Public Health assistant director, said 5-6 stool samples from infected individuals were sent to the state laboratory in Phoenix for analysis. Results were not expected back until after Thanskgiving.

Specimens had to be collected within the timeframe when the individual was going through the acute stage of the illness for the virus or bacteria responsible to be present.

McNally said if the sample wasn't gathered during the acute stage of illness, the virus or bacteria responsible may not be identified.

Lab personnel divide specimens in two, do a viral culture on one portion and look for bacteria in the other, McNally said.

The health department has asked doctors in Golden Valley treating anyone for the illness to collect and submit stool samples to the MCDPH, McNally said. Her department also has worked with the emergency room at Kingman Regional Medical Center, since the outbreak may be a norovirus.

"Christy (Bronston, director of nursing) and Rachel (Patterson, environmental health manager) met with school officials and provided information on things needed for disease control," McNally said. "As far as disinfecting the school, they recommended some areas of carpet be steam cleaned, and using bleach on door handles and desk tops."

Norovirus is a contagious illness spread from person to person by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, a news release from the MCDPH stated.

Frequent hand washing with warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer are suggested as a precaution.

The school has been proactive in trying to avoid any recurrence of the problem, while awaiting word from the health department on the illness.

"All teachers now are asking students to wash their hands and sanitize whenever they enter or leave the classroom," Collins said.

"We had a crew of 11 district personnel here (Nov. 18) and they sanitized the building with bleach on the recommendation of the health department and washed everything the kids touched."