Stomach virus causing mass absences at Gwinnett middle school

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A stomach bug is snaking its way through one Gwinnett County middle school this week, causing mass absences along the way.

Lanier Middle School, located at 6482 Suwanee Dam Road in Sugar Hill, has seen dozens of students miss class time, Gwinnett County Public Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach confirmed. On Wednesday alone, a total of 70 students were absent, sent home or checked out. On Thursday, 65 students were absent.

Principal Todd Hamilton sent a letter home to parents Wednesday. %

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"In checking with parents of students who are out, many of the students are experiencing symptoms often associated with viral gastroenteritis -- vomiting and an upset stomach," Hamilton wrote. "Because of the number of students experiencing these symptoms, we have called our county nurse and the health department as a precaution, and they are working with our school to assess the situation."

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Hamilton urged parents to keep sick children home until their symptoms have subsided for at least 24 to 48 hours. Several teachers have fallen ill as well.

"They are throwing up, having diarrhea, and so we of course have been in constant contact with the health department trying to figure out exactly what's going on,” said Bernard Watson, with Gwinnett County Public Schools.

The school has no immediate plans to temporarily shut down, but they are taking steps to contain the illness by sanitizing and deep cleaning the building.

“We are doing all we can to make sure the situation gets handled. We have had custodians cleaning the building Tuesday and Wednesday night, and after consulting with the health department, we will figure out if we need to do it again tonight,” Watson said.

Parents are encouraged to keep their kids home, even if they feel only slightly ill.