LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — It’s been nearly four days since a gastrointestinal illness (GI) outbreak infected an estimated 130 elementary students in the southwest valley. Parents say they still are mostly in the dark about what happened, and some of them are reporting symptoms too.
An 8 News Now source close to the matter about 130 students were affected, adding that students were lined up outside the Wayne N. Tanaka Elementary School health office on Friday as several children experienced “projectile vomiting.” As of Tuesday, both the Clark County School District (CCSD) and Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) have not said what caused it.
One of the mothers who called herself “Joyce” to protect her identity, said her 9-year-old daughter came home from school Thursday just fine.
“It wasn’t until overnight when she was sleeping that she started having a stomach ache, and then she threw up about five to six times overnight,” Joyce said during a phone interview Tuesday morning.
Joyce says she kept her daughter home on Friday, the day of the reported mass-vomiting. A day later, she reported experiencing similar symptoms.
She shares speculation among several other parents that contaminated cafeteria food on Thursday was the source. SNHD told 8 News Now that GI viruses are commonly spread by eating, drinking or touching contaminated food or surfaces.
While SNHD did not comment on the investigation, a spokesperson said in a statement that “during a foodborne illness outbreak, people are interviewed about what they ate before they got sick when possible food contamination is confirmed using epidemiological and laboratory information.” The spokesperson added, “Gastrointestinal illnesses can have many causes.”
8 News Now has asked for more specifics from CCSD about the incident and if food poisoning is a potential cause. Instead, the email parents received from the school Monday was delivered.
“The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) is investigating the cause of the gastrointestinal illnesses reported by several of the students at Tanaka,” the email read in part. “Sick people should not prepare food or care for others.”
Joyce said her daughter ate the cafeteria food on Thursday. A family 8 News Now spoke to on Monday said their Tanaka Elementary School child was not infected and does not eat food from the school.
Days after the incident, parents including Joyce feel shut out about what potentially left her, her fourth-grader and several other children sick.
“I don’t know if they have all the information present as to what happened, but I wish that we did have more constant updates as to 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, then we need to know what’s going on so we can help our children.”
Since Monday, 8 News Now has asked CCSD how many students were ill and sent home on Friday. Those questions have not been answered yet.
CCSD responded Tuesday that the school underwent a “thorough cleaning” on Friday and that “staff continue to reinforce good hygiene practices on campus.”
The full email delivered to parents by the school:
Dear Tanaka Parents/Guardians,
As always, we want to keep you informed of important issues happening within our school community.
The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) is investigating the cause of the gastrointestinal illnesses reported by several of the students at Tanaka. We are currently working with the Clark County School District Health Services Department and SNHD on implementing measures to prevent further illness.
Gastrointestinal viruses are common and easily spread from person-to-person. Symptoms usually develop 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to the virus. Most people will 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, such as dehydration. The most common symptoms include nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Additional symptoms may include fever, headache, and body aches.
Regular and appropriate handwashing is one of the most effective prevention methods for reducing the spread of gastrointestinal illness and other illnesses. People who are ill, or caring for someone who is ill, should wash their hands carefully with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food. Sick people should not prepare food or care for others. Hands should be dried with disposable paper towels. Hands should always be washed after using the toilet,
changing diapers, or washing soiled clothes or bedding. It is important to incorporate routine, proper hand hygiene to reduce the spread of illness. Persons who are experiencing symptoms of gastrointestinal illness should stay home from school for 48 hours after symptoms have stopped. Seek care from your licensed health care provider if symptoms persist.
Hard, non-porous surfaces that have been contaminated by an ill person should be cleaned and then disinfected immediately 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 regarding common gastrointestinal illness, please contact your health care provider or the SNHD office of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance.