Spread of a virus affects more than 200 students in Mount Pleasant School District

Mount Pleasant Public School students got a long weekend after officials made the decision to cancel school because of rapidly spreading illness.

Although it hasn’t been officially confirmed, the virus is thought to be the Norovirus, which is a highly contagious illness caused by an infection that can cause acute inflammation of stomach and intestines.

Superintendent Michael Pung made the decision to close schools with the recommendation of Isabella County Central Michigan District Health Department Dr. Robert Graham when nearly 200 students were infected with the virus.

Graham said the rapidity of its spread from person-to-person contact and the fear that it would affect other students were taken into account when deciding whether to cancel classes.

“There’s a high attack rate. It’s very contagious,” he said. “What we believe is the most common way [to catch the virus] is through the fecal and oral route.”

Graham said although the virus is rapidly spreading, the virus itself isn’t something too serious.

“It’s nothing that is life-threatening,” he said. “Most people get over it in 72 hours. It isn’t as serious as Influenza.”

Pung said students were showing signs of the virus — which include vomiting and stomach pain — Tuesday morning at Ganiard Elementary. By the time school was out, 40 students were absent because of common symptoms.

“Forty students was a pretty good amount,” he said. “It wasn’t until after the kids went home [that] we put an eye that the symptoms were matching.”

By Wednesday evening, Pung said four staff members were affected along with 200 students, which was nearly half of the building.

Pung said the virus itself has a one-and-a-half day incubation period, with the illness itself lasting usually one to three days.

“This is pretty common in winter months, and it does tend to circulate when people are in close proximity,” Graham said.

As symptoms started to show up in other Mount Pleasant school buildings, Graham recommended the entire district shut down.

“Because we share transportation, we were afraid it would spread to other students and families,” Pung said.

With no school for Mount Pleasant Public Schools on Monday because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, students will be out of class for five consecutive days. All extracurricular activities are also closed until Tuesday morning.

Officials from Central Michigan University Health Services were unavailable for comment about the potential for any problems on campus.