In the past week, some 50 students at Chapman University, a private school of about 7,500 students in Orange, California, has been sickened by suspected norovirus. One students has been laboratory-confirmed positive for the virus.
The investigation continues and currently, health officials have not pinpointed the source to the infectious agent. Because several students reporting symptoms live off-campus and do not use University dining facilities, it is believed at this time that the virus was not foodborne.
The school says it has taken a “multi-pronged” approach effort in tackling norovirus to include cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, messaging to students and members of the campus community, and coordinating the attack with the Orange County Health Department and various campus offices.
Norovirus is a very contagious gastrointestinal virus that is most often passed along by touch, and is the most common cause of acute gastrointestinal illness in the United States. It can also be foodborne, typically by salad greens or shellfish that have contacted noro-infected water, or through food handling by infected persons. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, and typically subside after one or two days. An infected person can spread the virus before showing any symptoms.
The virus is typically spread through contact with contaminated surfaces – it is not airborne. However, the hardy virus can live on surfaces for weeks if not cleaned with a bleach or a strong disinfectant solution. Washing hands thoroughly with soap and hot water and using hand disinfectant have been shown to be effective in preventing the virus from passing person-to-person by touch.
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