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A suspected norovirus outbreak at West Lincoln Elementary School on Friday sent more than 100 students home sick, according to school and Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department officials.

Norovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness.

Tim Timmons, the health department’s communicable disease program supervisor, said some students went home Thursday, but not large numbers.

On Friday, 57 students were absent and another 84 went home during the day, LPS officials said, although some students could have left or been absent for other reasons.

Timmons said the virus spreads quickly, and if someone vomits it can be spread through the air for a time.

Given the rapid spread of the virus, health department officials suspect that may be what happened at the school.

The virus typically lasts 24 to 48 hours and can be dangerous to very young children or older adults because of the risk of dehydration, Timmons said.

Health department officials recommend people stay home until they’ve been symptom-free for 24 hours. They suggest food handlers stay home 48 hours after they’re symptom-free.

West Lincoln has 512 students, which means more than a quarter of them may have been affected.

West Lincoln sent home a note to parents explaining that the virus spreads through direct contact with an infected person, consuming contaminated food or water, touching contaminated surfaces and putting your hands in your mouth.

Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.

School officials planned to have extra custodial staff at West Lincoln over the weekend to help sanitize the school.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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