A suspected norovirus outbreak that has sickened some 150 students has prompted the temporary closure of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon. In a letter to parents, head of school, Paul Collins writes:


Further to my letter sent to you on Friday regarding the number of increased cases of diarrhoea and vomiting at the College, it was hoped that the advice would curtail any further outspread of these symptoms.  However since Monday, in addition to the staff and students who had remained off school, this number has risen dramatically with many students arriving to school and subsequently developing these symptoms.  The significant escalation in diarrhoea and vomiting cases today has placed us in the situation whereby we cannot isolate and provide the necessary medical care to the students as they become ill.  The health and wellbeing of our staff and students remains paramount and we have been in contact and advised by Public Health throughout the day.

It is for this reason we are going to need to be proactive in dealing with the situation and therefore will regrettably be closing the school for both staff and students from tomorrow (Wednesday 8th) through to Friday 10th inclusive to enable a fully comprehensive deep clean to take place.  Students will return on Monday 13th March 2017.  Staff who remain fit for work will be setting work for students to complete at home via Show My Homework.

This decision has not been taken lightly, however, we have a duty of care to our students and wider community and trust you appreciate and understand this difficult situation.  We are grateful for your support.

Norovirus, incorrectly known as ‘stomach flu,’ is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis in the United States, and it spreads quickly. Norovirus is NOT related to the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness caused by a different virus

Norovirus is very contagious and can live on surfaces for a very long time. It can be easily spread from person-to-person, especially in group settings, such as gatherings, daycares/schools, restaurants, and nursing homes. Individuals can reduce their risk of becoming infected through frequent hand washing using soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Alcohol based hand sanitizers do NOT prevent the spread of norovirus. In most cases, ill persons recover on their own. The very young and elderly are at higher risk for dehydration. Those with severe diarrhea should drink plenty of fluids.

Preventing contamination of food, drinks and surfaces is critical to preventing the spread of norovirus. Anyone with norovirus should not prepare or serve food until they have been symptom-free for three days. It is important to carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them.

The spread of norovirus can be prevented by disinfecting contaminated surfaces with household chlorine bleach-based cleaners and prompt washing of contaminated articles of clothing. Anyone showing symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea should not go to daycare, school, or work until symptoms have subsided. Persons who work in nursing homes, take care of patients, or handle food should stay out of work for two to three days after symptoms end.