SALT LAKE CITY — Schools along the Wasatch Front will spend the weekend deep cleaning schools — even school buses — to stem the spread of a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness that kept more than 600 students home from school in Utah and Salt Lake counties earlier this week.
Alpine School District has been particularly hard hit, but officials in Jordan School District learned Thursday of a handful of confirmed cases of norovirus at two of its elementary schools in West Jordan — Fox Hollow and Mountain Shadows. The virus causes diarrhea and vomiting.
The two Jordan District schools had a combined 251 students absent on Friday, but it was unclear how many of the absences were due to illness and how many were because of the fact it was a Friday and there was only a half-day of school, said Jordan School District spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf.
"If we can keep it to two schools, that would be a good thing. We don't want it in any schools, but right now we're doing all we can to keep it to those two schools, she said.
On Thursday, custodians worked "well into the night and they used different cleaning methods than we normally use to deep clean and sanitize. They used an ozone machine, like a fogging machine, to wash down everything. Those schools were cleaned from one end to the next, the bathrooms, you name it," Riesgraf said.
"Then we went a step further and we also deep cleaned 25 buses last night and then they're going to work through the weekend cleaning the rest."
Schools need the help of individuals and families, too, Riesgraf said.
"Our message to parents is, if your child's sick, keep them home, she said.
Personal hygiene is highly important, Riesgraf said.
"Simply washing your hands thoroughly after you use the restroom, wash your hands before you eat. Wash your hands after you eat. Don't share utensils. At home, wash down countertops. If someone does get sick, wash the clothing and wash it well. It's these hygiene efforts that will go a long way in keeping this from spreading so quickly," she said.
Officials in the Granite and Canyons school districts were not aware of any cases there but schools were being deep cleaned as a preventive measure.
The outbreak happened to coincide with a scheduled cleaning at Olympus High School on Friday, said Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley.
"We're actively working to combat these types of issues," he said.
Granite officials are carefully tracking reports of the outbreak and taking steps to ensure the health of students, educators and staff.
"Invariably, something like this just has a way of spreading," Horsley said.
Jeff Haney, spokesman for the Canyons School District, said the school district has no known cases of the illness, but crews will spend the weekend taking precautionary measures.
"We're going to make sure we spend the weekend cleaning all of our desks and chairs and all of the countertops to make sure if any of our kids happen to socialize or shop in the same places as the students and teachers from neighboring districts, we do our best to clean those off in time for school on Monday," Haney said.
There we no "lab confirmed" cases of the illness in the Davis School District, according to county health officials.
There were no known cases in Murray City School District, said spokeswoman D Wright.
The Salt Lake City School District also had no known cases Friday.
More information is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.