LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — It has been nearly four days since an outbreak of gastrointestinal (GI) disease infected an estimated 130 elementary school students in the Southwest Valley. Parents say they’re still mostly in the dark about what happened, and some of them are also reporting symptoms.
An 8 News Now source close to the matter said about 130 students were affected, adding that students lined up outside the Wayne N. Tanaka Elementary School Health Department on Friday as several children suffered “projectile vomiting.” As of Tuesday, both the Clark County School District (CCSD) and the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) have not said what caused it.
One of the mothers, who went by the name “Joyce” to protect her identity, said her 9-year-old daughter got home safely from school on Thursday.
“It wasn’t until she slept that night that she started having stomach pains, and then she vomited about five to six times overnight,” Joyce said during a phone interview Tuesday morning.
Joyce says she kept her daughter at home on Friday, the day of the reported mass vomiting. A day later she reported similar symptoms.
She shares speculation with several other parents that contaminated cafeteria food was the source on Thursday. SNHD told 8 News Now that GI viruses are commonly spread through eating, drinking or touching contaminated food or surfaces.
While SNHD did not comment on the investigation, a spokesperson said in a statement, “During a foodborne illness outbreak, people are questioned about what they ate before they became ill when possible food contamination is confirmed using epidemiological and laboratory information.” The spokesman added: “gastrointestinal diseases can have many causes.”
8 News Now has asked CCSD for more details on the incident and whether food poisoning is a possible cause. Instead, the email the parents received from the school on Monday was delivered.
“The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) is investigating the cause of the gastrointestinal illnesses reported by several students at Tanaka,” the email said, in part. “Sick people should not prepare food or care for others.”
Joyce said her daughter ate the food in the cafeteria on Thursday. A family who spoke to 8 News Now on Monday said their child at Tanaka Elementary School was not infected and was not eating school food.
Days after the incident, parents, including Joyce, feel left out of what may have made her, her fourth grader and several other children ill.
“I don’t know if they have all the information on what happened, but I wish we had more constant updates on what’s going on,” Joyce said. “At the end of the day we don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know how to help them. I mean, if kids are a priority, we need to know what’s going on so we can help our kids.”
Since Monday, 8 News Now has asked CCSD how many students fell ill on Friday and were sent home. These questions have not yet been answered.
CCSD responded Tuesday that the school underwent a “deep cleaning” on Friday and that “staff continue to reinforce good hygiene practices on campus.”
The full email that the school will send to parents:
Dear Tanaka Parents/Guardians,
As always, we want to keep you informed about important issues in our school community.
The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) is investigating the cause of the gastrointestinal illnesses reported by several students at Tanaka. We are currently working with the Clark County School District Health Service and SNHD to implement measures to prevent further illness.
Gastrointestinal viruses are widespread and easily transmitted from person to person. Symptoms usually develop 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus. Most people get better within one to three days without medical treatment. Young children, older adults, and people with other medical conditions may be at higher risk for complications like dehydration. The most common symptoms are nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Additional symptoms can include fever, headache and body aches.
Regular and appropriate hand washing is one of the most effective prevention methods to reduce the spread of gastrointestinal diseases and other diseases. Persons who are ill or are caring for someone who is ill should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food. Sick people should not prepare food or take care of others. Hands should be dried with disposable paper towels. Always wash your hands after using the toilet
Change diapers or wash soiled clothing or bedding. It is important to build in routine, proper hand hygiene to reduce the spread of disease. Anyone who develops symptoms of gastrointestinal disease should stay away from school for 48 hours after the symptoms have resolved. Contact your licensed healthcare provider if symptoms persist.
Hard, non-porous surfaces that have been contaminated by a sick person should be cleaned and then immediately disinfected with a chlorine bleach solution made by adding 5-25 tablespoons of household bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) to one gallon of water. For more information on common gastrointestinal diseases, please contact your doctor or the SNHD Office of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance.
Thank you very much,