Home Health News Colorado's Mesa County Valley School District 51 is closing all its schools amid 'unprecedented' illness outbreak – USA TODAY

Colorado's Mesa County Valley School District 51 is closing all its schools amid 'unprecedented' illness outbreak – USA TODAY

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A Colorado school district dealing with an “unprecedented spread of illness” has closed the doors to every one of its more than 40 schools.

Mesa County Valley School District 51, the 14th-largest school district in Colorado, according to the district’s website, announced on Wednesday that all of its schools will be closed until after Thanksgiving break is over on Dec. 2. 

“We have never before had to close all schools in the district due to illness,” superintendent Diana Sirko said in a statement on the district’s website. 

In the statement, district nursing coordinator Tanya Marvin said the virus is “extremely contagious and spreading quickly across our schools.” She also called the closure of all of the schools in the district “highly unusual.” 

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“In addition, it appears that there is now a second, related virus that is affecting students, some of whom have already been ill in recent weeks,” Marvin said. “The combination of the two has created an unprecedented spread of illness.”

According to the district, vomiting is a symptom of both viruses. The second virus can cause fever. 

Based in Grand Junction, Mesa County Valley School District 51 includes 24 elementary schools, eight middle schools, four high schools, three charter schools, two K-12 schools, an alternative high school and a middle/high school. 

The district serves more than 22,000 students and has 2,785 teachers and staff, according to its website. 

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“We understand that a districtwide closure is an inconvenience to families and a rare step to take,” Sirko said in the district’s statement.

“While our custodial crews are working tirelessly to disinfect schools, the rapid spread of illness has led us to the conclusion that closing all schools to allow our custodial crews and environmental health and safety team to perform an intense cleaning of the school buildings is the best course of action.” 

There are 150 to 200 outbreaks in Colorado suspected to be caused by norovirus each year, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Communicable Disease Deputy Branch Chief Nicole Comstock told The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel newspaper.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls norovirus a “very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea.” The CDC added outbreaks are “very common” and “the virus spreads easily and quickly.” 

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