“It hit me like a train wreck.” This is how one of the many infected students described his symptoms of what is likely norovirus.
Stool tests performed on those who are ill haven’t confirmed this diagnosis, but Director of Health Services Dr. Goldstein said that norovirus is “likely” the culprit of the students’ symptoms, which include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Resident Advisors on campus have reported 103 cases of students having contracted the debilitating stomach bug as of Wednesday evening, according to Goldstein, Director of Health Services.
Goldstein first notified the campus community about the virus in a campus-wide email sent Monday, Feb. 4 at 2:40 p.m., but didn’t name the illness as norovirus at that time.
Some students, however, felt this email did not come soon enough. Haley Matthes ‘19 voiced her frustrations and warned students to be aware of its spreading in a post in the Lafayette College Class of 2019 Facebook group on Feb. 2.
“I’m just tired of the school waiting for a campus-wide sickness to escalate to a point where they need to send out a bulletin [or] cancel classes,” Matthes said in a follow-up email.
Matthes was also upset that extended hours weren’t offered at Bailey Health Center.
Several students in the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity have also had the virus. According to Mikey Burke ‘21, approximately 12 to 15 members of the fraternity had contracted the virus as of Tuesday, although he said he expected that number to grow.
“I think it just spread really quickly throughout the house, it originated there and spread to a lot of the brotherhood, I live in McKeen and only hung out at the [Phi Psi] house for a couple hours…and got sick,” Burke said in an email.
Bobby Longo ‘21, another Phi Psi fraternity member to have the virus, said he believed the email warning on Monday was “too late.”
“Norovirus is an extremely contagious stomach virus that spreads like wildfire. After the first or second case on campus we should have been notified… it ramps up as people go from class to class spreading it,” Longo said in an email.
According to Goldstein, his level of concern about the virus was raised when the health center began receiving phone calls and emails from concerned students and parents, as the health center was “not overwhelmed” by the number of students coming to Bailey about the virus.
Goldstein said he wanted to find a “sweet spot” of not raising a level of hysteria but also communicating with the students. He decided to send the campus-wide email more based on “the feedback from students,” Goldstein said.
“I think what’s happening is students are self-treating and getting through this without needing to see a provider, but the numbers are pretty significant on campus. The students communicating with me was a good thing,” he said.
According to Goldstein, reports from Resident Advisors and Bailey total a little over 150, but Goldstein said there may be overlap among these reports, if for example, a student both went to Bailey and reported their illness to their RA.
While Goldstein said that the discussion of the school closing “hasn’t happened yet,” he believes certain social gatherings will be cancelled if the virus continues spreading rapidly. One event, the Lunar New Year dumpling making party hosted by ISA and ACA, was cancelled on Tuesday as a result of the spreading sickness.
University students’ hand hygiene practice during a gastrointestinal outbreak in residence: What they say they do and what they actually do
Journal of Environmental Health Sept. issue 72(2): 24-28
Brae V. Surgeoner, MS, Benjamin J. Chapman, PhD, and Douglas A. Powell, PhD
Published research on outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness has focused primarily on the results of epidemiological and clinical data collected postoutbreak; little research has been done on actual preventative practices during an outbreak. In this study, the authors observed student compliance with hand hygiene recommendations at the height of a suspected norovirus outbreak in a university residence in Ontario, Canada. Data on observed practices was compared to post-outbreak self-report surveys administered to students to examine their beliefs and perceptions about hand hygiene. Observed compliance with prescribed hand hygiene recommendations occurred 17.4% of the time. Despite knowledge of hand hygiene protocols and low compliance, 83.0% of students indicated that they practiced correct hand hygiene during the outbreak. To proactively prepare for future outbreaks, a current and thorough crisis communications and management strategy, targeted at a university student audience and supplemented with proper hand washing tools, should be enacted by residence administration.