Mobile County Health Department epidemiology staff members were in contact with school officials in Satsuma on Monday, March 2, 2015, about a suspected gastrointestinal virus sickening at least 100 students, teachers and staff across two campuses in recent days. According to a press release, the primary symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fever and lethargy.

“It’s unclear at this time what type of virus is causing so many people to be sick,” said Dr. Bernard Eichold, Health Officer for Mobile County. “We know that proper hand-washing is one way to guard against these types of gastrointestinal disorders.”

MCHD has engaged the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Epidemiology as well as the state’s liaison to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in investigating this illness.

It’s important to note that not all gastrointestinal viruses can be killed by alcohol-based hand sanitizers, Eichold said. That’s why washing hands frequently with soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of the illness.

To that end, school officials decided to close Satsuma High School and Robert E. Lee Elementary on Tuesday and Wednesday this week to thoroughly clean the schools and buses.

Health officials visited both affected campuses Monday and spoke with school nurses and others about the issue. Recommendations for teachers and students who present symptoms include not attending class and other outside activities for three days after symptoms subside.

If samples can be collected, a state public health lab will test the specimens to determine the exact strain of the virus. More information will be shared as it becomes available.