The Linn County Health Department took samples Friday from schools in the Greater Albany Public Schools district in an attempt to name the virus that has closed schools district-wide and sickened at least 100 students and staff.

Children, teachers and staff began showing symptoms last week and on Friday, 100 people from Periwinkle Elementary School missed class due to the virus. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, fatigue, muscle and body aches, headache, chills, sore throat, cough and stuffy or runny nose.

Test results are expected back this week.

“We are disinfecting as if it is the Norovirus because the hospital grade cleaner used for that kills most viruses,” said Assistant Superintendent Lisa Harlan, noting that no diagnosis has been confirmed.

The district worked with the Oregon Health Authority prior to closing Periwinkle on Monday. According to Harlan, the school tracked attendance on Monday at GAPS’ other schools.

“(We were) filtering it for illness, vacation, appointments, and (students) kept home not because the students were sick, but because parents didn’t want them to get sick,” she said. “Filtering for all of those things, there was a marked increase in absences due just to illness, not to mention those other absences on top of it.”

GAPS, she said, opted to limit exposure and continue to clean and disinfect the school buildings. The district office is also expected to be closed on Wednesday for cleaning. Buses were also sanitized.

On Tuesday, crews were inside Lafayette Elementary School on cleaning duty. Four Protexus electrostatic machines, borrowed from the Scio School District, were being used, with teams working across the district to disinfect the schools and other surfaces infected students may have come in contact with. 

The virus has spread behind GAPS, with the Boys & Girls Club of Albany reporting approximately 20 children being sent home on Friday and the Mid-Willamette Family YMCA shutting its doors to certain programs for the remainder of the week.

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The Child Watch, Club Y, Y Rock After School and No School Day Camp programs were all canceled at the YMCA to “prevent the spread of this yucky virus,” according to the organization.

The Boys & Girls Club had planned to remain open after staff reported early Monday to disinfect the building. However, following GAPS' announcement that all schools would close for the remainder of the week, the organization announced it would close its after school and athletics programs until Monday, Dec. 2.

Schools were previously scheduled to be closed on Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

GAPS asked families to follow tips to keep their children healthy during the outbreak including:

• Washing hands — including between fingers — frequently with soap and warm water, washing for 15 to 20 seconds. Sing the ABCs slowly while scrubbing to ensure a thorough wash. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth to prevent the spread of germs.

• Limit close contact with sick people and cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or arm if you cough or sneeze.

• Clean and disinfect all surfaces that may have germs using bleach-based cleaners.

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