With two weeks remaining until Penn State University has it’s THON weekend, the childhood cancer campaign, University Health Services at the school are warning students and the campus community of what appears to be, a norovirus-like illness spreading on campus.


University Health Services has seen an increase in patients with gastrointestinal symptoms in the past few weeks. Although many things can cause an upset to the digestive tract, this is the time of year when health care providers most frequently see norovirus, a gastrointestinal pathogen.

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.

University Health Services offer the following recommendations to prevent norovirus:

  • Do not share food, drinks, glasses, eating utensils, or anything that has come in contact with someone else’s saliva.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the restroom or before preparing food, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers frequently.
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetable well and thoroughly cook shellfish.
  • Clean surfaces with an EPA-approved disinfectant or use a preparation of 5-25 tablespoons of household bleach to 1 gallon of water. This is especially important after vomiting or diarrhea. Wear rubber household gloves when cleaning, and disinfect them when done.
  • Wash towels, bedding and clothing that may have been contaminated with virus splatter.
  • If you work or volunteer in a health care field, including nursing homes and group homes, daycares, or food service establishments, do not return to these activities until 48 hours after symptoms have completely resolved.

THON is a year-long effort which raises funds and awareness for the fight against childhood cancer. With the support of students from all across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and supporters all around the world.