Montclair HS Faces Stomach Virus Outbreak

By Christie Duffy

Nearly 300 kids called out sick at Montclair High School — twice as many as yesterday.

And about 65 teachers and other staff members also stayed home.

“Some people were throwing up in the middle of class,” said Montclair High School student Austin Reichard.

“I was sick yesterday. I was just throwing up a lot. Twenty-four hour virus though. I’m definitely not sick today,” said student Matt Ingersoll.

In a letter sent home to parents last night, the school’s principal says the symptoms include stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and possibly a low grade fever, chills, headache, muscle ache and fatigue.

The Health Department says it’s the stomach flu and the outbreak is being watched closely by the state and local health departments.

“We’re advising people to take good care of themselves. If they’re not feeling well,to stay home, to stay home at least 24 hours. After symptoms resolved to drink fluids. If they’re having nausea, having diarrhea, to make sure they’re continually hydrated. If they’re feeling anything like that, to contact their medical professional or their doctor,” said Montclair Health Department Health Educator Erica Abbruzzese.

And the virus is durable. So much so in fact, hand sanitizer won’t always prevent the spread of the virus. They recommend hand-washing instead.

Along with hand-scrubbing for a solid 15 to 20 seconds, health officials are advising staff to wash down surfaces with disinfectant or bleach and water, as well as telling kids not to share food and to avoid contact.

About 15 to 20 percent of Montclair High School’s 2,000 students were out today. School administrators admit that’s a lot but say many may be staying home to avoid the illness in the first place.

“I’ll be going home today. I don’t want to get sick,” said student Greg Defranco.

Kids coming out of the school report having many substitute teachers and that their classes of 20 or more students were down to a fraction of their normal sizes.

“Twenty-something people and now the last class I just had was about five people,” Ingersoll said.

Officials are trying to avoid having the virus spread to other schools within the district. But the principal here says he’s already heard of some cases among elementary students.