News

Cambridge Residents Slam Council Proposal to Delay Bike Lane Construction

News

‘Gender-Affirming Slay Fest’: Harvard College QSA Hosts Annual Queer Prom

News

‘Not Being Nerds’: Harvard Students Dance to Tinashe at Yardfest

News

Wrongful Death Trial Against CAMHS Employee Over 2015 Student Suicide To Begin Tuesday

News

Cornel West, Harvard Affiliates Call for University to Divest from ‘Israeli Apartheid’ at Rally

Union to Resume Cooking

News in Review

By Zoe Argento

First, President Neil L. Rudenstine announced he wasn't feeling well, and would have to take a break. Then, on Tuesday night, more than 200 first-years started to vomit. On Wednesday, the weather turned freezing and it started to snow. The cold and flu season promises to be brutal.

What did we do to deserve all this?

So far no one knows. "Diagnostic tests" are being performed on Rudenstine as he rests inside his home on Elmwood Ave. Water, food, bloods and stool tests performed on victims of the Tuesday epidemic have yet to pinpoint a cause for they're ill nesses. Not even Harvard's scientists have devised a cure for the common cold.

By the end of this week, most of Harvard seemed to be feeling a little bit better. The last two students suffering from the nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration of Tuesday night left the University Health Services' (UHS) Stillman Infirmary yesterday. And Rudenstine was feeling well enough to attend a Christmas party for Massachusetts Hall staff yesterday.

But it may be a little while before everything's back to normal. Rudenstine will apparently stay out of work for a couple more weeks. There are no guarantees that whatever caused the vomiting epidemic is gone. Factor in the heavy amount of work that piles up before winter break, and the campus mood seems a little bleak.

"Everyone's down because we have so much work," says Ethan G. Russell '98.

Even if everyone starts to feel better next week, there's a worse plague not far off. Finals.

Hundreds Fall Ill

UHS is an infirmary, but by late Tuesday night, it looked more like a morgue. Nearly 200 students descended on the health service, but by the time they got there, many were too sick to move.

In the UHS lobby, students slumped on couches or on the floor with pink plastic basins placed next to them to catch their vomit. As a nurse moved from one body to the next, a student stumbled in from the waiting room and crumpled to the carpet clutching his own bowl next to him.

If you couldn't get down to the health service to watch the action, that was okay. Pictures of the scene were broadcast nationally. Asked how he felt, one sick first-year said: "Like shit."

Harvard's estimate of the epidemic's effect was limited to the students who came to UHS. Many more students, however, say they were either turned away or did not approach the health service.

"I though I would be more comfortable puking in my room," Matthew F. Lima '98 said yesterday.

The illness lasted no more than 24 hours in most. The more than 150 students who descended on UHS Tuesday night through Wednesday morning dwindled to 33 by the end of Wednesday. The number was down to three by Thursday night, today. Most who experienced symptoms feel completely recovered, University officials said.

Some recovered students spent yesterday sharing sickness stories with their roommates over French-fries in the Union. Josh Z. Yguado '98 joked: "I was hosing down the hallway."

Lima, who describes himself as being "deathly ill for six hours Tuesday night," said that now he is only "sleeping a lot."

After three days, however, health authorities have barely a clue to what caused hundreds of students to develop flu-like symptoms.

Food poisoning has still not been ruled out, although city officials found the Union clean from bacterial infection and ruled out water infection. The kitchen first-year dining hall will begin preparing meals today.

At first, Director of Dining Services Michael P. Berry thought the outbreak might be food poisoning.

"When I walked into University Health Services Tuesday night," he said, "my first thought was that this was food poisoning... every food handler's nightmare."

As the week progressed, however, Berry and investigators found the outbreak "more symptomatic of viral infection."

One key reason for that suspicion is that UHS staff who treated students were coming down with the same symptoms, while dining hall workers remained healthy. In addition, the epidemic was not limited to those who ate in the Union. Some of the ill came from upper class houses.

Still, it is possible that the virus was carried in the food. Such viral food poisoning is not common as bacterial poisoning, but it does occur.

Between 1983 and 1987, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta found 50,283 cases of bacterial food poisoning and only 2,790 cases of viral food poisoning.

Tun-Hou Lee, associate professor of virology in the School of Public Health, yesterday offered one possible scenario which might explain the mystery.

"It is possible that if some of the raw food bought by University food services was contaminated, this food could have been served in all the houses," Lee said. "In the Union, where there are more students being served, many more would have been effected."

Lee's suggestion does not necessarily explain why at least of one of the sick students had not eaten University food at all.

A first-year in Thayer Hall says she had only a bagel and some water in the Union Tuesday morning, and didn't eat University food again until Thursday. Nevertheless, she experienced fever, chills and nausea Wednesday night.

"That's just one of the many interesting things about this case," said University spokesperson Joe Wrinn. "The only answer is to collect a lot of data. They're going to mesh biological testing with surveys."

A survey passed out to all those who checked into UHS or told their proctors that they felt ill asked for a complete description of the food that the students have eaten since last Saturday night. The survey also asked students to detail their symptoms.

"236 surveys were completed by [Thursday] morning, hundreds more were handed in that afternoon, and I assume there are a couple hundred more in the proctor network," Wrinn said.

So far, only two possible sources of contamination have been entirely ruled out. Tests by both Harvard and the city of Cambridge water department found the water in the Union and in first-year dorms to be clean.

In the Union, Harvard took samples and did cultures on 35 different food. Officials also took, according to Berry, "swipe tests... on everything imaginable," including dishes, utensils and counters.

By the end of the week, Berry said, the "numbers of [students eating in the Union] weren't seriously down."

Harvard officials patted themselves on the back for a rapid response to the epidemic. The response required the coordination of dozens of administrators and staff from at least five different departments.

"I'm exceedingly proud of my own staff," Berry said.

Rudenstine

Even more mysterious at this point is the exact medical reason for the president's leave. The University has said only that Rudenstine is tired, and, perhaps, works too hard.

Tests are continuing, but Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs James H. Rowe '73 has said Harvard will not release medical information on the president piecemeal. An announcement on Rudenstine's condition could be weeks off.

Speculation has been rampant as to what Rudenstine has. Chronic fatigue syndrome has been suggested by some, but the president has yet to say exactly what type of doctors he is consulting.

Acting President Albert Carnesale is taking his place. And this week, that meant spending a lot of time with the afflicted. He visited Rudenstine at his home, and dropped by UHS on Wednesday to chat with sick students.

Carnesale didn't have time to attend the rising number of colds that are inevitable with the onset of winter. Temperatures dropped precipitously this week, with the thermometer dipping into the 20s.

"I'm miserable," said Sharon C. Yang '98. "I always get sneezing fits."

Bringing People Together

Some people always seem to see the good side of everything. In Harvard's cloud of illness, a few students found silver linings.

"We were all sitting in the UHS waiting room throwing up every few minutes for about two hours," said Lydia C. Johnson '98. "It was the greatest freshman bonding event."

Getting sick, of course, had some side benefits. "Yeah, I can deal with missing my math 1b exam," Johnson said.

Her experience at the health service will last. At UHS, Johnson said she made a friend. They saw each other again later in the week.

"[The girl came up to me and said], 'Oh, hi, how are you doing?'"Crimson File PhotoON MEDICAL LEAVE: President NEIL L. RUDENSTINE

By the end of this week, most of Harvard seemed to be feeling a little bit better. The last two students suffering from the nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration of Tuesday night left the University Health Services' (UHS) Stillman Infirmary yesterday. And Rudenstine was feeling well enough to attend a Christmas party for Massachusetts Hall staff yesterday.

But it may be a little while before everything's back to normal. Rudenstine will apparently stay out of work for a couple more weeks. There are no guarantees that whatever caused the vomiting epidemic is gone. Factor in the heavy amount of work that piles up before winter break, and the campus mood seems a little bleak.

"Everyone's down because we have so much work," says Ethan G. Russell '98.

Even if everyone starts to feel better next week, there's a worse plague not far off. Finals.

Hundreds Fall Ill

UHS is an infirmary, but by late Tuesday night, it looked more like a morgue. Nearly 200 students descended on the health service, but by the time they got there, many were too sick to move.

In the UHS lobby, students slumped on couches or on the floor with pink plastic basins placed next to them to catch their vomit. As a nurse moved from one body to the next, a student stumbled in from the waiting room and crumpled to the carpet clutching his own bowl next to him.

If you couldn't get down to the health service to watch the action, that was okay. Pictures of the scene were broadcast nationally. Asked how he felt, one sick first-year said: "Like shit."

Harvard's estimate of the epidemic's effect was limited to the students who came to UHS. Many more students, however, say they were either turned away or did not approach the health service.

"I though I would be more comfortable puking in my room," Matthew F. Lima '98 said yesterday.

The illness lasted no more than 24 hours in most. The more than 150 students who descended on UHS Tuesday night through Wednesday morning dwindled to 33 by the end of Wednesday. The number was down to three by Thursday night, today. Most who experienced symptoms feel completely recovered, University officials said.

Some recovered students spent yesterday sharing sickness stories with their roommates over French-fries in the Union. Josh Z. Yguado '98 joked: "I was hosing down the hallway."

Lima, who describes himself as being "deathly ill for six hours Tuesday night," said that now he is only "sleeping a lot."

After three days, however, health authorities have barely a clue to what caused hundreds of students to develop flu-like symptoms.

Food poisoning has still not been ruled out, although city officials found the Union clean from bacterial infection and ruled out water infection. The kitchen first-year dining hall will begin preparing meals today.

At first, Director of Dining Services Michael P. Berry thought the outbreak might be food poisoning.

"When I walked into University Health Services Tuesday night," he said, "my first thought was that this was food poisoning... every food handler's nightmare."

As the week progressed, however, Berry and investigators found the outbreak "more symptomatic of viral infection."

One key reason for that suspicion is that UHS staff who treated students were coming down with the same symptoms, while dining hall workers remained healthy. In addition, the epidemic was not limited to those who ate in the Union. Some of the ill came from upper class houses.

Still, it is possible that the virus was carried in the food. Such viral food poisoning is not common as bacterial poisoning, but it does occur.

Between 1983 and 1987, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta found 50,283 cases of bacterial food poisoning and only 2,790 cases of viral food poisoning.

Tun-Hou Lee, associate professor of virology in the School of Public Health, yesterday offered one possible scenario which might explain the mystery.

"It is possible that if some of the raw food bought by University food services was contaminated, this food could have been served in all the houses," Lee said. "In the Union, where there are more students being served, many more would have been effected."

Lee's suggestion does not necessarily explain why at least of one of the sick students had not eaten University food at all.

A first-year in Thayer Hall says she had only a bagel and some water in the Union Tuesday morning, and didn't eat University food again until Thursday. Nevertheless, she experienced fever, chills and nausea Wednesday night.

"That's just one of the many interesting things about this case," said University spokesperson Joe Wrinn. "The only answer is to collect a lot of data. They're going to mesh biological testing with surveys."

A survey passed out to all those who checked into UHS or told their proctors that they felt ill asked for a complete description of the food that the students have eaten since last Saturday night. The survey also asked students to detail their symptoms.

"236 surveys were completed by [Thursday] morning, hundreds more were handed in that afternoon, and I assume there are a couple hundred more in the proctor network," Wrinn said.

So far, only two possible sources of contamination have been entirely ruled out. Tests by both Harvard and the city of Cambridge water department found the water in the Union and in first-year dorms to be clean.

In the Union, Harvard took samples and did cultures on 35 different food. Officials also took, according to Berry, "swipe tests... on everything imaginable," including dishes, utensils and counters.

By the end of the week, Berry said, the "numbers of [students eating in the Union] weren't seriously down."

Harvard officials patted themselves on the back for a rapid response to the epidemic. The response required the coordination of dozens of administrators and staff from at least five different departments.

"I'm exceedingly proud of my own staff," Berry said.

Rudenstine

Even more mysterious at this point is the exact medical reason for the president's leave. The University has said only that Rudenstine is tired, and, perhaps, works too hard.

Tests are continuing, but Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs James H. Rowe '73 has said Harvard will not release medical information on the president piecemeal. An announcement on Rudenstine's condition could be weeks off.

Speculation has been rampant as to what Rudenstine has. Chronic fatigue syndrome has been suggested by some, but the president has yet to say exactly what type of doctors he is consulting.

Acting President Albert Carnesale is taking his place. And this week, that meant spending a lot of time with the afflicted. He visited Rudenstine at his home, and dropped by UHS on Wednesday to chat with sick students.

Carnesale didn't have time to attend the rising number of colds that are inevitable with the onset of winter. Temperatures dropped precipitously this week, with the thermometer dipping into the 20s.

"I'm miserable," said Sharon C. Yang '98. "I always get sneezing fits."

Bringing People Together

Some people always seem to see the good side of everything. In Harvard's cloud of illness, a few students found silver linings.

"We were all sitting in the UHS waiting room throwing up every few minutes for about two hours," said Lydia C. Johnson '98. "It was the greatest freshman bonding event."

Getting sick, of course, had some side benefits. "Yeah, I can deal with missing my math 1b exam," Johnson said.

Her experience at the health service will last. At UHS, Johnson said she made a friend. They saw each other again later in the week.

"[The girl came up to me and said], 'Oh, hi, how are you doing?'"Crimson File PhotoON MEDICAL LEAVE: President NEIL L. RUDENSTINE

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags