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Suspected norovirus outbreak hits 80 at elementary school

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Eighty students and teachers were sent home from an elementary school in Brainerd with suspected cases of norovirus.

Senior staff at Garfield Elementary School had to postpone an event honoring veterans and grandparents on Friday after 35 were confirmed ill at the start of the day, with a further 45 sent home during the day, the Brainerd Dispatch reports.

"Just to make sure that we are safe to those people that we were inviting in, we thought it probably better to cancel the program," Principal Jonathan Clark told the newspaper. "We didn't want to have any senior citizens that might have health issues to be exposed to something."

Local healthcare officials told the school the symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and fever were consistent with the norovirus or another flu-like illness.

It is the latest outbreak of the bug in Minnesota in recent months.

Last month in Owatonna, Minnesota, 39 people attending a YoungLife banquet came down with suspected norovirus, according to the Owatonna People's Press.

And also last month, the Ground Round restaurant in Winona, Minnesota, shut down temporarily for a deep-clean after some of their customers came down with norovirus, among 30 suspected cases in the county, the Winona Daily News reports.

Bug hits quickly

The Minnesota Department of Health has said norovirus is the "leading cause" of foodborne illness outbreaks in the state, and spreads to food, water and surfaces from the hands of infected people who don't wash properly after using the bathroom.

Those who contract the virus can expect to have a combination of vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, with other symptoms potentially including a fever or the chills, a headache and muscle ache.

The bug can present itself in infected people quickly, with symptoms appearing as early as 12 hours after exposure, but typically will take a day or two.

But unlike the flu-bug, it doesn't hang around too long, just taking a day or two to pass out of your system.

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