Eugene-area Norovirus outbreak spreads to children and staff at the Lane Child and Family Center

Children play outside of the Lane Child and Family Center
Children play outside of the Lane Child and Family Center where a case of Norovirus was discovered.
Photo by Justin Cox / theTorch

Norovirus, the most common cause of gastroenteritis — an inflammation of the stomach and intestines that leads to cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea — in the U.S. according to the CDC., has infected the Lane Child and Family Center as of Oct. 25. The managers of the child care facility, used by many students and staff members, have been in contact with Lane County Public Health and plan on performing an intensive cleaning of all spaces in those buildings.

Norovirus is also the cause of O’Hara Catholic School being closed for three days at the end of Oct. due to a majority of the staff being infected and unable to work. A pre-Halloween pumpkin carving party may have caused the outbreak that has sickened more than 100 students, teachers and staff, a public health official said on Wednesday. Lane County Public Health spokesman Jason Davis said in an interview with Fox News that testing shows that at least 10 students and others who attended the event in which a “master carver” whittled a face into a massive pumpkin were infected with the virus.

Lane student Kaelen Byrum’s family was infected by the virus. “My two younger sisters go to O’Hara and got sick there. Then, they brought it back and got my parents and brother sick too,” Byrum said.

The Center of Disease Control recommends wiping down all common hard surfaces with a bleach solution of at least 1000 PPM (1/3 cup per gallon water). This however is forcing numerous students to leave school due to the strong smell.

chart of reported outbreaks of norovirus
chart detailing the percentage of outbreaks based on the type of exposure.

Noel Balderston, junior at Marist High School, the private high school attended by many older siblings of O’Hara students, explains that she received a concussion during a softball tournament during the weekend of Oct. 30, and when she came to school the following Monday, her migraines were paralyzing. 

“The smell of bleach was so strong, they wiped down everything with it,” Balderston said. “I had to leave at lunch because my head hurt so bad that it was impossible to learn in that environment.”

According to the CDC, for most people norovirus illness is not serious and they get better in one to three days. But, it can be serious in young children, the elderly and people with other health conditions. It may also lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death.

Norovirus spreads quickly from person to person in enclosed places like nursing homes, daycare centers, schools, and cruise ships. It is also a major cause of outbreaks in restaurants and catered-meal settings if contaminated food is served.