Public health officials are trying to find the source of the norovirus-like illness that sent about a dozen Fitchburg State College students to the hospital Monday evening with symptoms that included nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
"In a nutshell, about a dozen students were transported by ambulance after complaining of gastrointestinal illness," said Matthew Brunn, Fitchburg State College spokesman. "We believe it's a norovirus, but we have to do some testing to make sure that that's what it is."
The cases were not restricted to a single building, Brunn said. A total of about two dozen students from several different residence halls reported symptoms.
Campus Health Services is working with the state Department of Public Health to find the source of the illness.
Norovirus infections are usually spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or drinks, or by coming in contact with an infected person, said Jennifer Manley, a Department of Public Health spokeswoman.
"It is one of the most common causes of food-borne illness in the United States," Manley said. "It's pretty common nationwide."
The virus can spread quickly in close quarters like college dorms, Manley said, but people usually recover from infections in one to two days.
To prevent more infections, Campus Health Services is advising students to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
The Fitchburg Board of Health is inspecting the school's dining hall and interviewing its staff, said Stephen Curry, health director in Fitchburg.
"Not all of the patients have eaten at the dining hall, so it's potentially not an issue, but I'm not ruling it out at this time," Curry said.
The students who ate at the dining hall did not have the same dishes, Brunn added.
"We do not believe it was food poisoning," he said.
Officials are also working with the school's nurses to gather information and conduct interviews.
"We are trying to locate any potential source of illness of any kind, not just a norovirus," Curry said. "We're all trying to find a common thread, basically."
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more