Stomach Flu Outbreak Spreads

There has been a slight increase in the number of cases of gastrointestinal illnesses, particularly norovirus, among College students, administrators announced in a campus-wide email on Tuesday.

Commonly called the stomach flu or food poisoning, the highly contagious illness is prevalent during the winter and can be spread through direct contact or ingesting contaminated food or water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

It is standard protocol to inform the community in situations when health issues arise “in order to promote health and prevention,” Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in an email.

The norovirus incubation period is 24-48 hours, and then the illness typically lasts another 24-48 hours, according to the email from Associate Dean of Student Life Joshua G. McIntosh. The email also listed important contacts for those who are already sick and need assistance if they have vomited or cannot leave their rooms.

Brian A. Truong ’15 was sick from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning and said several others in his entryway contracted the virus as well. For Truong, the email was simply a confirmation of his sickness.

“I looked up my symptoms online,” he said. “I pretty much knew what I had.”

Tyler W. Gamble ’14 said that his illness lasted about two to three days, during which he exhibited common symptoms of the stomach flu. Many of his blockmates and entrywaymates have also come down with the illness or are still sick, but he said he does not know how they all contracted the virus.

“We all live in the same tower,” he said. “We eat in the same place; it could have been food. It was just a bunch of people who live in the same area and use the same common spaces.”

According to information released on the University Health Services’ website, shared common spaces can be contaminated easily, and students who live in dorms are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

During his illness, Gamble said he knew he was contagious and took precautions.

“I mostly slept in my room and tried not to infect other people,” he said.

Currier House Resident Dean Laura K. Johnson notified Currier residents of the outbreak on Monday, before the administration’s campus-wide announcement. The email told residents that the House would help excuse sick students from classes, and advised everyone to wash their hands with soap and water rather than using hand sanitizer, especially before eating.

According to the informational pamphlet that UHS distributed, there is no direct treatment—such as a vaccine or drug—for norovirus, but those who are affected should drink fluids to prevent dehydration.

—Staff writer Michelle M. Hu can be reached at michellehu@college.harvard.edu.

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