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Posted on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

Norovirus-like illnesses reported at two Ann Arbor area child care centers, elementary school

By Amy Biolchini

Two Ann Arbor-area child care centers and an elementary school have reported outbreaks of a norovirus-like illness this month, according to Washtenaw County Public Health.

The gastrointestinal illnesses prompted the two child care centers to close briefly to disinfect toys and furniture, said Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, spokeswoman for the health department. The centers have since reopened, she said.

Washtenaw County Public Health would not release the names of the child care centers or elementary school where norovirus-like illnesses had been reported in the first full week of November.

At the elementary school, children from more than one classroom were sick and school staff consulted with Public Health for the best way to handle the sickness, Ringler-Cerniglia said.

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes inflammation of the stomach, intestines, or both. The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and stomach pain. Other symptoms can include fever, headache and body aches.


Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of norovirus, health officials say. file photo

The biggest concern for children with norovirus is making sure they don’t get dehydrated, Ringler-Cerniglia said.

The health department is encouraging people to wash their hands more than ever, as Ringler-Cernligia said it’s the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. Staying home and not preparing food when sick with norovirus are also effective ways for infected people to prevent the spread of the illness.

Lab tests have not confirmed that the reported illnesses are norovirus, but Ringler-Cerniglia said the health department believes it's likely they are.

With children back to school and colder weather keeping people indoors more, Ringler-Cerniglia said it’s common to see diseases like norovirus appear in November.

“We expect this to continue in group settings,” Ringler-Cerniglia said.

People develop symptoms about 24 to 48 hours after they’re exposed to the virus, and symptoms typically last for a day or two, Ringler-Cerniglia said.

However, people who have had norovirus are still contagious from three days to two weeks after their symptoms go away, Ringler-Cerniglia said.

Ideally, children and people that have been sick with norovirus will stay out of school and work for two to three days after their symptoms are gone, but a more reasonable expectation is for children and people to stay home for 24 hours after the symptoms are gone, Ringler-Cerniglia said.

There is no vaccine for norovirus.

Norovirus can live on hard surfaces for several days if they aren’t properly disinfected. It’s important to use cleaning solutions that include bleach to ensure that the virus is killed, Ringler-Cerniglia said.

Popular cleaning supplies like disposable wipes often don’t include bleach and won’t be effective in killing norovirus, Ringler-Cerniglia said.

Ringler-Cerniglia recommended using a solution of a tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water to disinfect surfaces and toys, or up to one-third of a cup of bleach in a gallon of water for floors and bathroom areas.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


George K

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

I don't have a child, but if I did I would not let them eat anything at a day care center. I enrolled my 2 dogs in a daycare, and one time they came home and sprayed #2 all over my house. You can't trust what people are feeding your loved ones, even if they mean well! To be fair, I am kind of a food nazi. But anyways I don't think disinfecting anything will help. Bacteria are our friends; you just have to have the right mix of it. Killing all bacteria indiscriminately does as much (or more) harm than good. Otherwise, why not give your kinds a daily anti-biotic? I hope nobody actually does that...


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 3:42 a.m.

The child care centers and the elementary school likely don't want the bad PR from releasing their names. This is like not releasing the name of a restaurant with a bad sanitation report. The public needs to know which child care centers and which elementary schools are involved. The schools and these centers have far too much power over the Washtenaw County Health Department. The public has a right to know. I'm tired of being kept in the dark about these kinds of things due to the County Health Dept buckling to pressure from organizations that want to avoid bad PR. This is a serious illness and is transmitted through contaminated food, water and from other infected individuals.


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

Is the school not named because all the schools have similarly lackadaisical policies? At least it would be nice to hear whether the unnamed school has made any changes. @samshoe: Don't you think that potential clients of the daycare have an interest also?


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 1:43 a.m.

I have to agree that this article falls short of being informative enough.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

Don't you use spell-check even? "peopel" paragraph 7? Please!

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 1:08 a.m.

OMG the world is going to end...


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

You're only taxpaying citizens of Washtenaw County and the Socialist Republic of Ann are on a need-to-know basis, Comrades, and right now, you don't need to know. When the Central Politburo thinks you should know, they will let you know. Until then, just shut-up, pay your taxes, vote yes on all future frivelous bonds and proposals and be a good Comrade.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 9:39 p.m.

Why and how is this a helpful - or even relevant - story for the public when the centers and school are not named, and when the county health dept. says it is not a big enough risk to warrant naming, let alone nobody from any of the places affected being interviewed or quoted???????

Washtenaw County Public Health

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

Please make that "experiencing similar symptoms lately."

Washtenaw County Public Health

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

Please note that norovirus-like illnesses is probably circulating throughout the community. These are a few locations where there have been reports of illness in group settings. The specific locations are not necessarily the only areas where norovirus-like illness is present. Many individuals from across the county have likely been experienced similar symptoms lately. It's that time of year! Take time to wash hands carefully to prevent infection. For more on norovirus, please see: - Susan


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

please make that "are probably circulating . . "


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 8:51 p.m.

This virus went through my child's daycare center the week of November 4th and all of the parents were aware of the issue. Those that needed to know about the problem were informed.

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.

Just spoke with Liz Margolis, spokeswoman for Ann Arbor Public Schools, who said AAPS takes norovirus very seriously and has not been notified of any norovirus outbreaks in their schools as of this time. According to the health department, nurses in schools typically will send a child directly home if they're vomiting at school -- which is one of the first sudden symptoms of norovirus. Tests for norovirus involve a stool sample and take about a week to produce results, and so schools typically take action by sending sick students home instead of waiting for test results.


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 3:54 a.m.

Elementary schools in AAPS do not have full-time nurses. The nurses are in elem buildings only a couple half days a week, at the most. The rest of the time, the school secretary handles medical issues re: students. School secretaries are usually nice people, but are in no way trained in the medical field. It is very uneven as to how situations are handled. An unfortunate reality in AAPS. I mention this because the spokesperson for AAPS makes it sound like nurses are in the elem schools full time. Not the case at all. --Jim


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 3:47 a.m.

If you think you have contracted the norovirus and end up in the ER for treatment due to the severity of the symptoms, somehow they can figure it out in a couple hours from a blood sample. Taking a week is just not accurate information. I have relatives that had this exact situation happen to them.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

In other news, police reported a crime occurred. They are refusing to say what happened, when, or where it occurred because, although a complaint has been filed, the police feel it is an isolated incident. It is not know at this time if there are any suspects. Authorities are requesting that any potential victims contact the police.

Ron Granger

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

I guess we need "an app" for broadcasting the location of illness outbreaks, since our public health agency wants to keep it a secret. I mean, why would anyone want to avoid catching a Norovirus right before family thanksgiving get togethers? The more the merrier! "The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and stomach pain" - an illness like that can be devastating to the elderly.


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 3:49 a.m.

I love it! An app for the county health department! Keep everything relevant secret!


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

Not to mention " ... people who have had norovirus are still contagious from three days to two weeks after their symptoms go away, Ringler-Cerniglia said."

Matt A

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

Yeah but it's the perfect holiday diet plan! No need to limit the amount you eat. Norovirus will do it for you!


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

How can it be good public health policy to not only not notify, but indeed to refuse to inform, the public about a health threat? I suppose there is a rationale, but I cannot fathom what it is. Why is the first discussion about a contagious illness "reported in the first full week of November" published weeks later? It isn't the sort of thing likely to incite panic, but it might encourage prevention!


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:21 p.m.

Have parents of the children at the school and child care centers been notified of the sickness? As a parent of an Ann Arbor elementary school child, I'd really like to know this.

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

The parents of the children at the child care centers have been notified, according to the health department. The health department did not send home communications to the families with children at the elementary school that was affected.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

How in the world is not releasing the names of the schools and center helpful, when a contagious disease is present? We get a notice when there is lice in the classroom, which is a treatable and preventable 'infection', but not for Norovirus?


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.

I am totally perplexed as to why Amy Biolchini's comment is getting a big thumbs down. She has provided additional information relevant to the article. Apparently people don't like what the health department has said. That is not the reporter's fault. Classic case blaming the bearer of bad news rather than the source.

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

According to the health department, norovirus does not currently pose a public health threat and so health officials do not feel the need to release the names of the child care centers or elementary school.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

I totally agree with this. I have a child in elementary school. It worries me that she could be exposed and potentially contaminate the whole household. Guess I'll pre-emptively bleach the house now.