DUBLIN - Laurens County closed all of its public schools Friday after an estimated 150 children went home sick the day before with what health officials suspect is highly contagious norovirus.
The decision shuttered nine schools across the central Georgia county, though the city of Dublin opted to keep its public schools open.
"We are going to err on the side of caution," Rob Johnson, the Laurens County school superintendent, told The Courier Herald of Dublin. "I know this is going to put our parents in a difficult position, but we are trying to be proactive to put our kids in the best environment for them to learn."
Most of the illnesses were reported at East Laurens Primary Schools, Johnson said, but other schools also reported sporadic cases of similar illnesses. The decision was made to close all of the county system's schools to give workers time to disinfect and sanitize all school buildings and buses through the weekend.
Johnson said health department workers sent to look into the illnesses suspect students were infected with norovirus, though they had not confirmed it.
Norovirus is often spread through contaminated food and can cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, fever and body aches. The Centers for Disease Control says most people get better after one to three days.
The school system sent letters home to parents Thursday afternoon and used automated phone calls to inform them classes were being cancelled.
Health workers gave school officials instructions on the proper equipment and chemicals to use to disinfect the schools, Johnson said. Classes were scheduled to resume Monday.