Student health officials at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill are reporting an outbreak of gastroenteritis among on-campus residents living in several housing and Greek life facilities. While not confirmed, the symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are consistent with norovirus.
In an abundance of caution, Facilities Management is working to provide additional cleaning to high-touch areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, door knobs, stair rails, elevator buttons and community spaces. The City of Evanston Department of Health is working with Northwestern University Health Service (NUHS) to determine the cause of the illness and to reduce further spread.
Health officials are advising students living in shared housing areas to practice common sense hygiene measures to prevent the spread of this illness to include frequently wash hands with hot, soapy water, do not share food, drinks or eating utensils, do not have or limit contact with someone who is sick and clean soiled areas promptly.
If conducted by a student rather than facility staff, use disinfectant which states effectiveness for Norovirus on the label.
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.
Residents in housing units who fall ill should notify their Resident Assistant or Residence Director. For housing inquiries, questions or additional information, please contact Residential Services at 847.467.HOME.
Affected students may wish to seek support and medical services from the Health Service or refer to the web page on gastroenteritis. The Health Service will appreciate receiving notification from students with symptoms of the illness even if care is not needed by calling 847.491.2204.
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