Norovirus Outbreak Closes Head Start Center In Rantoul

A 3-D graphical representation of a single norovirus virion.

A 3-D graphical representation of a single norovirus virion. The different colors represent different regions of the organism’s outer protein shell, or capsid.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

An outbreak of norovirus closed the Rantoul Head Start Center Wednesday, and the facility will stay closed for the rest of the week. That’s according to the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, which operates Head Start programs in the county.

About 25 people — mostly children but some staff at Rantoul Head Start — have come down with norovirus, which attacks the gastrointestinal tract. There are 83 children attending the Head Start facility at 104 Nightingale Court on the site of the former Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul.

Rachella Thompson is a communicable diseases investigator with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, which also provides public health services for the rest of Champaign County under contract with the Champaign County Board of Health. Thompson says the outbreak is big enough to warrant closing the Rantoul Head Start facility, while those infected with the norovirus stay home until the norovirus has run its course.

“If you have someone that is experiencing gastrointestinal illness, which would be vomiting, diarrhea, we want to make sure they are excluded and isolated immediately,” said Thompson. “And they should be symptom-free for 48 hours before they come back into an environment. “

Meanwhile, Thompson says the Rantoul Head Start Center is undergoing disinfection, so it will be free of norovirus when classes resume on Monday.

“That cleaning is going on now,” said Thompson. “And it may go on for a day or more, just making sure that they are covering any areas that could have been contaminated.”

Norovirus, which is sometimes inacurrately referred to as stomach flu, causes vomiting and diarrhea and is highly contagious.  Thompson recommends frequent handwashing to help avoid catching or spreading the virus.

Story source: WILL