Crews sanitize Shelton school after student diagnosed with enterovirus

Crews cleaned and sanitized parts of Sunnyside Elementary School on Tuesday during the day and at night, after Shelton education officials were informed a student there had been diagnosed with enterovirus.

The crews focused on the first-grade student’s classroom as well as common areas where the student might have spent time.

A parent had contacted school officials on Monday evening to report their child was sick and might have enterovirus, and was able to confirm that diagnosis with school officials very early Tuesday.

The student was hospitalized and under observation because of the enterovirus.

“That’s when we put the protocol together,” said School Supt. Freeman Burr, referring to actions to be taken at a school when such an illness is present.

Some students relocated for one day

Students in the classroom used by the student were relocated to another location at Sunnyside on Tuesday to allow cleaning activities to take place, and returned to their normal classroom on Wednesday.

Burr said some of the cleaning took place at night, with “extra help” being provided by maintenance personnel from other schools.

Sunnyside staff members have been monitoring students to look for any possible signs of illness.

Parents notified

Notices were immediately sent to all administrators in the school district, and a letter was prepared to be distributed to parents at all Shelton public schools. The letter was physically given to students to take home — with slightly different versions provided to Sunnyside parents and to parents at all other schools.

“This is the first case [of enterovirus] we know of,” said Burr of the Shelton school system, noting the district did send out communication earlier this year involving a student with a form of whooping cough.

Burr said parents reacted well to the enterovirus notification. “Most of our parents got the information they needed and were able to discern that this is a pretty common virus that’s been around a long time,” he said.

No drop in attendance

Attendance at Sunnyside has not dropped noticeably since the medical issue came to light, Burr said.

Burr said from what he has been told, the enterovirus can only live airborne for about three hours.

He said it’s important to remind parents to not let their children attend school if they are not feeling well or are showing symptoms of an illness, especially those with any respiratory medical problems such as asthma.

Sunnyside Elementary, like other Shelton schools, has a school nurse.

‘A nationwide outbreak’

Since September, hundreds of children across the country have come down with enterovirus, a respiratory illness that is similar to the flu. This includes other cases in Connecticut.

Children are most likely to get enterovirus, especially those with a history of asthma or wheezing. The virus produces mild symptoms, similar to a bad cold, in most people infected.

In late September, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory concerning EV-D68, or enterovirus. “The United States is currently experiencing a nationwide outbreak of EV-D68 associated with severe respiratory disease,” the CDC said at the time.

Symptoms and transmission

Mild symptoms of enterovirus-D68 many include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. Sever symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing.

In general, infants, children, and teens are most likely to get infected with enteroviruses. Those with a history of respiratory difficulties such as asthma are more at risk for severe respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 infection.

The virus spreads through contact with respiratory secretions — saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum — and is usually transmitted by coughing, sneezing, or touching contaminated surfaces.