The House Dad Chronicles: How The Norovirus Shut Down My Daughter's School

09/11/2012 14:18 | Updated 22 May 2015
The House Dad Chronicles: How the Norovirus claimed 200 kids and 15 teachers at my daughter's schoolAlamy

I tend to take the fact that my kids' will get sick on a weekly basis with a pinch of salt. Exposure to germs is a good thing, I reason. It will strengthen their immune systems and make them formidable specimens of adulthood, I argue.

But this week, for the first time ever, I kept one of my children off school – even though there was nothing wrong with her. And it's a good job I did.

It started on Wednesday afternoon when an email from my 10-year-old's head teacher dropped into my InBox.

It read: "As of 2.30pm this afternoon we have 86 children and 5 staff who are now not in school due to the vomiting/diarrhoea bug. Over a dozen children vomited at school today. Obviously this has become a major issue and it is an extremely contagious bug or viral infection.

"We have tried our best to get the children to wash their hands throughout the day and have hand sanitizers in the classrooms. However this will not be enough to prevent further infections.

"It is obvious that entire families are likely to be affected once there is one victim. I appeal to you to do the following: if your child shows any sign at all of illness, keep them at home.

"Please follow NHS guidelines and do not send your child in for 48 hours until symptoms have disappeared.

"Many thanks for your co-operation and fingers crossed we all get better soon!"

An hour later, I received another missive asking me to come and collect my daughter early as her after-school drama club had been cancelled because the teacher had been struck down.

Jeez! What was going on? Had a war started? Had the school been hit by a dirty bomb carrying the Norovirus? My family had succumbed to the Winter Vomiting Bug before, but this seemed to be on altogether grander scale.

I asked my daughter how she felt.

"Fine," was her typical reaction, "but not everyone else is. There were only four kids in class today."

That was it. My mind was made up. She wasn't going to school the next day, not just for her own sake, but for the greater good: I didn't want her two younger brothers being infected, too.

And it was a good thing she didn't, for the next morning, her stomach started to gurgle, the colour drained from her face, and then she began to heave, and heave, and heave. From both ends. Great Tsunamis of vomit and diarrhoea. I'll spare you any more details, but better out than in, as they say.

Thankfully, within a few hours, she was on the mend – and even had the strength to help me load the washing machine three or four times!

But that's more than could be said for the rest of her school mates. For late on Thursday afternoon, I received another email from the Head.

"As you may know (our school) has been afflicted by a particularly unpleasant virus and we now have over 200 pupils and 15 staff absent," he wrote.

"We have had a full audit by the European Safety Bureau, an independent health and safety consultancy, carried out in school this morning.

"They have identified the presence of a norovirus and advised us to conduct a full deep clean by environmental cleaning experts and to sanitize all areas.

"A specialist team will clean the entire school with anti-viral liquids and use air based products. We will therefore close the school all day tomorrow, Friday 9th of November."

Hopefully it will all be sorted by Monday, but in the meantime, I'm preparing myself for a weekend of Huuey horror because my sons have been complaining this morning that their tummies feel a 'bit funny'! I hope the washing machine's up to it.


Norovirus, better known as the winter vomiting bug, is the most common stomach bug in the UK, affecting people of all ages. The virus, which is highly contagious, causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

As there is no specific cure, you have to let it run its course, but it should not last more than a couple of days.

The following measures should help prevent the virus from spreading further:

• Wash your hands frequently.

• Do not share towels and flannels.

• Disinfect any surfaces that an infected person has touched.

If your children have norovirus, the following steps should help ease your symptoms:

• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

• Take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.

• If they feel like eating, eat foods that are easy to digest.

• Keep them at home and don't go to the doctor, because norovirus is contagious and there is nothing the doctor can do while you have it. However, contact your GP to seek advice if your symptoms last longer than a few days or if you already have a serious illness.

• Extra care should be taken to prevent babies and small children who are vomiting or have diarrhoea from dehydrating, by giving them plenty of fluids. Babies and young children can still drink milk.

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