In a follow-up report to a gastrointestinal outbreak affecting some 200 students, faculty and staff at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, school and county health officials announced today that norovirus has been confirmed by laboratory testing as the cause of the outbreak.
There continues to be a significant decrease in students reporting symptoms since the illness was first reported to the college’s Wellness Center last Tuesday morning. Aggressive cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting efforts will continue throughout the week with the help of additional custodial staff. Emergency custodial services will be available after hours. Classes will continue as scheduled this week.
“Members of the campus community who develop symptoms should continue to contact the Wellness Center,” said Ursinus College Medical Director Dr. Paul Doghramji. “Anyone who has been ill should follow CDC Guidelines to prevent the virus from spreading. This includes practicing good hygiene, avoiding well people for a few days, and cleaning clothes, linens, and contaminated surfaces.”
Julie Paoline, Division Director of Communicable Disease Control Montgomery County Health Department, said: “At this time, the Health Department believes that Ursinus College administration and its staff have done everything they can do in terms of focusing on monitoring illness, promoting hand hygiene, conducting environmental disinfection and excluding ill food workers. There are no additional recommendations from the Department at this time. This will need to run its course.”
Norovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that often goes by other names, such as viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu, and food poisoning.
The symptoms include nausea,vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills,headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults do.
Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food and water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.
Norovirus causes more than 20 million illnesses annually in the US, and it is the leading cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States.