The highly contagious disease that has sickened 325 students and 30 staff members at St. Ignatius College Preparatory Academy might have been brought onto campus by a person, city health officials said Wednesday.
Deputy Health Officer Dr. Tomas Aragon said the agency believes the disease is viral, not foodborne, meaning someone was sick when they attended school.
“We tested the kitchen and the water supply, and it’s all come up negative,” Principal Patrick Ruff said Wednesday.
The school — which has a student body of 1,444 students and about 100 faculty members — was closed Wednesday for a deep cleaning after a high number of students called in sick with viral gastroenteritis, more commonly known as stomach flu.
Roughly 50 students stayed home Tuesday and another 90 were sent home. Ruff said as many as 15 students call in sick on an average winter day, and Tuesday’s number was alarming.
The school will remain closed until Monday as a precaution, Ruff said. All athletics and school events have been suspended.
“It’s such a quick onset,” Ruff said. “We thought it best to close the school the next few days. Logistically, it would be difficult to operate the school.”
The school’s maintenance staff used a bleach solution to clean the campus overnight and will continue its efforts over the next few days, Ruff said.
Symptoms for those affected include an upset stomach, fever, diarrhea and vomiting. Rest and fluids help most to combat the illness, which is rarely fatal.
Students are advised to not return to school until three days after their symptoms subside.
Aragon said the Public Health Department is running tests to see if the school is dealing with a norovirus — which also causes stomach cramping, fever, diarrhea and vomiting. There was a norovirus outbreak at a Marin County nursing home last week and also in November.
Aragon said outbreaks in nursing homes are more common than in schools.
“It’s very infectious,” he said of norovirus. “It can happen anywhere it’s common to have large clusters of people.”
Ruff told students Wednesday to focus on recovering — but also for those not ill to enjoy their five-day weekend.
Sports schedule affected
The second matchup this season between the Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Ignatius boys’ basketball teams, scheduled for Wednesday at Sacred Heart, was postponed amid the ongoing stomach flu outbreak at St. Ignatius.
The game will now be played Monday.
The St. Ignatius girls’ game at St. Francis today also was postponed, but the boys’ games on the road against St. Francis on Friday and at home against Valley Christian on Saturday are still scheduled to be played.
The decision comes after multiple girls became ill during a game against Sacred Heart on Tuesday night.
“After what happened at the game ... we felt it was in the best interest of the student athletes at both schools to cancel the game,” St. Ignatius Athletic Director John Mulkerrins said.
— Jeremy Balan