Norovirus may have sickened approximately 100 students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and local health authorities have launched an investigation in order to confirm this hypothesis.
The outbreak was initially reported on Monday, February 15, at about 7:00 p.m., when students from 2 residence halls (the South and the West Quadrangle) located in the central part of the campus started complaining of symptoms commonly associated with a norovirus infection.
According to Rick Fitzgerald, director of public affairs at the University of Michigan, so far around 100 students have sought medical care and treatment after viral gastroenteritis manifestations associated with norovirus, commonly referred to as the winter vomiting bug.
Namely, patients have experienced nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fatigue, muscle pain, mild fever and vomiting.
Stool samples from the sick students have been collected, and although test results from the Michigan Department of Community Health will only be available on Friday evening or next week, school officials are almost sure that a norovirus outbreak is to blame for the large number of gastrointestinal illnesses.
Now, experts affiliated with the University of Michigan’s Housing and Health Service, have joined forces with the Washtenaw County Public Health Department and Michigan’s Department of Community Health to at least limit the contamination to just the two dorms where it has been identified so far.
As explained by Dr. Robert Winfield, Chief Health Officer at the University of Michigan, students who have already caught norovirus have been urged to remain in their rooms, given the fact that the pathogen is extremely contagious.
Basically, norovirus can be contracted by consuming tainted drinks or food items, by sharing meals or objects with infected individuals, or by touching one’s mouth after coming into contact with contaminated surfaces.
As a result, frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water is a must these days at the University of Michigan, and food will be provided to ill patients who have been placed under isolation, so as to limit the risk of exposing even more people to the pesky virus.
In addition, stricter hygiene and sanitation procedures have been introduced in all the residence halls and across the seven dining halls located on campus, in an effort to keep the outbreak under control.
So far, preliminary reports suggest that the the source of contamination may have been the Central Campus Dining facility housed in the South Quadrangle, which is incidentally the most recently opened cafeteria pertaining to the University of Michigan.
The dining hall consists of 10 small restaurants, providing students with a wide variety of meals, such as sushi, barbecue favorites, Mediterranean dishes etc.
Apparently, the first students to catch the food-born virus became infected after frequenting that establishment, and later spread the pathogen to their peers as well.
Something similar occurred in 2002 as well at the University of Michigan, but at that time the outbreak was less severe, being reported in just one residence hall.
Even so, school officials aren’t that alarmed regarding the ongoing health crisis, given the fact that norovirus infections are relatively common and mild, symptoms usually fading in approximately 3 days.
As a result, the Big Ten Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships are currently unfolding on campus as planned.
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