Baton Rouge – State health officials have been unable to determine the cause of the recent outbreak of a stomach illness that affected about 200 students earlier this month at Livonia High School in Pointe Coupee Parish.

According to Dr. Raoult Ratard, state epidemiologist, not enough specimen samples were collected to analyze.

“Unfortunately, we were only able to send three stool samples to the lab for analysis,” he said. “Since there were so few samples, the lab results were inconclusive. Thus, we were unable to identify the possible illness or where it may have come from.”

Even though the illness could not be identified, Ratard said it is highly likely that it was a norovirus (stomach-flu) that caused so many students to miss school.

“In the past week we have had numerous reports of outbreaks of intense vomiting and diarrhea, lasting a few days but with rapid recovery. However, some individuals had symptoms severe enough to cause emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Some of these severe cases occurred among infants and elderly people, but some severe cases were previously healthy high school students and healthy young adults,” he said.

For information on norovirus, click here.

Ratard added that it is frustrating to have such a large outbreak, but have so little evidence to review.

“Generally, only patients who are hospitalized have stool samples collected. I hope that if something like this happens in the future, health professionals will collect stool samples from patients who visit emergency rooms and doctors’ offices. These samples are the key to our ability to determine the illness.”

The students began feeling sick after lunch on Tuesday, March 6.  The school closed the next day at noon because so many students were ill or absent.