John Adams Middle School has been closed for the day following a potential Norovirus infection.

The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District issued a health alert on Feb. 2 regarding a potential Norovirus infection and followed up late Thursday night with the decision to close the school, cancel an upcoming camp and suspend all activities through the weekend.

7th grade students from John Adams Middle School (JAMS) were potentially exposed to a gastrointestinal illness during a five-day Yosemite science trip last week, possibly Norovirus. Officials said the symptoms are consistent with the virus but it has not been confirmed.

The 190 students, along with several teachers and parents, returned to Santa Monica on Friday, Jan. 27 and did not re-enter campus until Jan. 30. Officials learned that several students showed signs of illness while still on the trip and they notified all JAMS parents on Sunday, as they worked to identify and determine the extent of the illness.

School officials said the health and safety of students and staff is their top priority and they are working closely with Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH) to institute control measures in order to help prevent the spread of this illness. LADPH is investigating and currently believes that this originated in Yosemite, potentially exposing students from dozens of school districts.

The challenge with this highly contagious illness is that a child or adult may still feel well when they are contagious, making containment difficult. Officials said they have experienced what they believe is the same illness appearing in other JAMS students who were not on the trip and the illness has possibly spread to a few siblings attending other SMMUSD schools in Santa Monica. So far, 80 students and 10 teachers have become ill.

Due to the uncertain incubation period and the highly contagious nature, officials said the infectious cycle could extend weeks at JAMS and spread to multiple campuses unless immediate measures are taken. Consequently They will close the campus Friday and conduct a “terminal cleaning” over the weekend under the guidance of the LACDPH.

LADPH has provided the following information to share with families:

Symptoms of gastrointestinal illnesses usually begin within an hour to 48 hours after exposure to agents such as bacteria, viruses or toxins. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms please notify the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health immediately.

People can become infected with gastrointestinal illnesses in some of the following ways, including:

  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with the infectious agent and then placing their hands in their mouths
  • Having direct contact with another person who is infected (for example, caring for someone who is ill or sharing utensils with someone who is ill)
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with the infectious agent.

These infections can be controlled by taking steps to prevent person-to-person transmission. The specific control measures that can be taken to decrease the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses include:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces contaminated with vomit and fecal material and the area surrounding these contaminated surfaces promptly
  • Increasing the frequency of environmental cleaning in areas including bathrooms, kitchens, faucets, door handles, walls, and outside equipment
  • Using disinfectants or bleach solutions on surfaces contaminated with vomit or feces.
  • Cleaning agents used specifically for surfaces contaminated with Norovirus should be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Cleaning carpets and soft furnishings with hot water and detergent or steam (dry vacuuming is not recommended)
  • Carefully and frequently washing your hands

Officials said if your child exhibits any of these symptoms, please keep him or her home and alert your school. LADPH asks that any student with this illness be kept home for three days after the end of any symptoms, including tiredness and weakness, as they are still contagious during this time period.

Parents can call (310) 998-3222 for more information.

— Submitted by Gail Pinsker, SMMUSD Public Information Officer