Stomach flu closes Harmony Elementary School

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Harmony Elementary School outside Buford will be closed today, after nearly one-quarter of the school's population got sick.

Health officials say the bug appears to be gastroenteritis, commonly known as the "stomach flu," not the swine flu. Crews are investigating and sanitizing the school, preparing for it to open Monday.

According to Gwinnett County Public Schools spokesman Jorge Quintana, 131 out of 639 students were sick Thursday, with many checking out after classes began. About 10 staffers also were out, complaining of vomiting and nausea, said Suleima Salgado, public information officer for the East Metro Health District.

Officials have not determined if the children caught the illness at school, but Salgado said the germs can pass quickly from person to person.

The health department recommended the closing, and Salgado said parents should be sure to give sick kids plenty of fluids and encourage frequent hand-washing. She said surfaces that are contaminated should be sterilized with household bleach-based cleansers.

While officials plan to open the school Monday, officials said children should stay home until they are symptom-free.

A letter explaining the situation was sent home to parents, Quintana said.