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Illness strikes after teacher lunch at New Tampa school

No children were affected, school district says.
Dozens, all adults, were sickened after a teacher appreciation lunch at Clark Elementary School in New Tampa. [HCPS Twitter]
Published May 16
Updated May 16

TAMPA - Dozens of employees of a New Tampa elementary school have been ill in recent days as a result of food contamination at a catered lunch.

The employees of Clark Elementary School took part in a teacher appreciation week celebration on May 9 that was catered by an outside food provider, said Tanya Arja, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County District.

About 100 were there, and half of them became ill during the weekend. The Florida Department of Health confirmed that one employee had Norovirus, a highly contagious condition that can be caused by food contamination.

An inspection of the restaurant that catered the food found that recently ill staff with Norovirus-like systems had been involved in the food preparation.

Norovirus is often confused with the flu because its symptoms include a low-grade, fever, muscle ache and chills, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

Clark's principal, Paulette Englilsh, sent a note out to the staff stating that "no students were part of the luncheon and we have not been made aware of any children who are sick, stemming from this situation."

She added, "our custodians have thoroughly cleaned all surfaces in the school and will continue to do so each day."

A letter from the health department cautioned anyone experiencing Norovirus symptoms not to return to the school until 48 hours after all symptoms had stopped.

The letter also contained detailed instructions on hand washing: Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds, shut the water faucet and door with a paper towel, and don’t trust hand sanitizers.

On Thursday, a full week after the luncheon, Arja said she did not know how many teachers were still sick. Nor did she have any information about the restaurant.

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