December 21, 2005

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. – Nearly half the students at a Bluff City middle school fell ill with symptoms consistent with a form of norovirus, a highly contagious gastrointestinal infection commonly called stomach flu.

Sullivan County Regional Health Department officials worked with school officials over the weekend to interview students and faculty to narrow down what illness was spreading.

On Friday, 218 of Bluff City Middle School’s 448 students were absent. Of 129 people interviewed by health officials, 114 showed symptoms of norovirus.

Health officials believe a student or staffer brought the infection to school, rather than it coming from contamination or food preparation problems at the school, said Jennifer Williams, the department communicable disease director.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus symptoms usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping, along with fever, chills, headache and fatigue.