By Tessa Raebeck
Southampton Elementary School closed its doors Wednesday to be disinfected after a student was found to have an enterovirus infection, Superintendent Scott Farina said in an alert issued Tuesday.
The district said the strain found in the student, who is out of school and seeking treatment, is not the EV-D68 strain of the virus that has had a nationwide outbreak, resulting in cases of severe respiratory illness in both children and adults throughout the country.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-polio enteroviruses are “very common viruses,” which cause about 10 million to 15 million infections in the United States each year, with tens of thousands of hospitalizations for illnesses caused by enteroviruses. EV-D68 is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses. Although small numbers of D68 have been reported regularly to the CDC since 1987, the number of people with confirmed EV-D68 infection has been “much greater” in 2014, the CDC said on its website.
It is unclear which strand of enterovirus the Southampton student is infected with, although the district confirmed it is not EV-D68. A mix of enteroviruses generally circulates throughout the United States each year, with different strands causing more illnesses in different years.
“Most people who get infected with non-polio enteroviruses do not get sick. Or, they may have mild illness, like the common cold. But some people can get very sick and have infection of their heart or brain or even become paralyzed,” the CDC website states.
Infections can spread through close contact with an infected person or by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them before touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
Mr. Farina said the Southampton Elementary School, as well as the entire bus fleet, would undergo a “thorough cleaning” by an outside company on Wednesday and reopen today, Thursday, October 16.
“The company will disinfect the entire building and apply an antibacterial product to further prevent the spread of germs,” he said.
Although local schools always step up their health-minded measures going into flu season, which is also the most common time for enterovirus infections, on Wednesday the Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton school districts said they are taking extra precautions in response to the infection in Southampton.
“We disinfected classrooms last night and will do so regularly as a precautionary measure, and have reminded students and staff to wash hands, avoid close contact, cover coughs and sneezes and to stay home when sick,” said Bridgehampton Superintendent/Principal Dr. Lois Favre.
Sag Harbor Superintendent Katy Graves said the district applies a virucide to surfaces every night year-round during after-school cleaning, “but we’ve expanded that more to virtually every surface to make sure that it kills all viruses. So we’re vigilant, but we’ve become even more vigilant,” she said.
The virucide, which the state has approved for use around children, is now being used on more surfaces and throughout the day, rather than just at night. The district is also continuing its regular instruction on healthy habits.
“It’s a good wake-up call for us to always be heightened and aware,” said Ms. Graves. “We have a pretty fragile population—our little ones—so we take care of them and make sure it’s safe.”