Hundreds of Marion elementary students still out sick for 3rd school day in row

Norovirus outbreak suspected at East Marion Elementary School

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. - The lines to pick up kids at East Marion Elementary School on Tuesday were shorter than they were even on Monday as more kids were marked absent in the wake of some kind of gastro-intestinal illness spreading quickly through the school.

For the third school day in a row, hundreds of students are still absent from a Marion County elementary school after some sort of illness broke out on Friday.

Marion County spokesperson Kevin Christian said 223 students are absent from East Marion Elementary on Tuesday, slightly higher than Monday's 195 students. Nine students were sent home early, including several who showed up sick Tuesday morning after going home early Monday due to sickness.

Five staff workers are absent on Tuesday, down from the seven who were absent a day earlier. Cafeteria workers did not report for duty on Tuesday because food is not being prepared on campus, Christian said.

School officials said nearly 300 students were absent from East Marion Elementary on Friday, likely because of a norovirus outbreak.

The health department hasn't officially identified the type of virus, as school officials await test results, which could come back early this week.

School officials urge parents to keep the children home if they show signs of being sick for at least 24 hours of being symptom-free.

"Although these numbers are better than last Friday, they are still very high,"  Principal Rusty Corely said in an audio recording sent to parents. "I can assure you we are taking every precautionary measure within our power to get this under control."

Still some parents told Local 6 they thought their kids were well enough to attend school.

"All you're doing then is bringing the illness back into the school," said Marion County Public Health Spokesman Craig Ackerman.

His agency is working with the school district and hoping to drive home the message to keep kids home until they've been symptom-free for at least 24 hours.

"How many of us have gutted out an illness and gone to work?" he asked.  "If we want the illness not to spread, parents need to take the same precautions."

Editors note: In a previous version of this story, parent Jennifer Lee was interviewed about school illness outbreak. Lee said her daughter had been absent, but she said she decided to send her back to school. What was not clear in the original story was that Lee says her daughter was not absent because of the illness causing the outbreak, but rather another issue. She said she was reluctant to send her child back to school out of fear she might contract the illness affecting the other students.

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