CHICOPEE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A spike in gastrointestinal illnesses, the norovirus, strep throat, and general severe colds is sending kids home from school and, according to doctors, into local pediatricians offices.

One school nurse we talked to said that students are dropping like flies. Nothing serious, but they are asking - pleading - parents to please not let their kids go to school if they are sick.

"The children are dropping like flies in the classroom. I sent home four kids from one classroom vomiting," said Chicopee school nurse Amena Assaf.

It's a rough week so far at Chicopee's Litwin Elementary School. Assaf told Western Mass News that gastrointestinal illnesses and strep throat are making the rounds.

Baystate Medical Center pediatrician Dr. John O'Reilly said his office has been hit hard too - up 15 to 20 percent since the Thanksgiving break.

"Families got together, shared germs, and now, they're back in pediatricians offices and school nurse offices," O'Reilly noted.

Why so many sick kids? O'Reilly said that one reason is that the so called 'sick season' started early. October rather than November, so viruses have had more time to build momentum. A large number of the illnesses, he said, are those of the highly contagious variety like the norovirus. That's the one known to wreak havok in cruise ships.

"Those kids, they're vomiting a lot. They're having a lot of diarrhea and they are really contagious. You can spread norovirus quickly through a cruise ship and quickly through a classroom," O'Reilly noted.

As for the flu, the latest numbers from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said that activity is 'minimal' so far in western Massachusetts,

However, O'Reilly said that visits for fevers are picking up.

"If your child has a fever, that means that virus or bacteria is really active in the child's body and that child can now spread that infection," O'Reilly explained.

Back at Litwin, Assaf said they're using antibacterial wipes like they're going out of style, they're telling kids to wash hands every chance they get, and is asking parents to use common sense.

"I'm seeing a lot of parents sending their children to school that are sick, then coming back the next day, so we really want them to stay home until they're free of any illness," Assaf noted.

Doctors said a child should be fever free for at least 24 hours before they go back to school. Otherwise, they may still be contagious.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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