A highly contagious gastrointestinal illness presumed to be caused by a norovirus has sickened 75 students at Emerson College since the middle of last month, but public health and college officials now believe the outbreak is waning.
On March 14, two students reported to campus health services complaining of stomach cramps and nausea, Andrew Tiedemann, Emerson's vice president for communications, said today. At its peak, 10 to 13 students a day were seeking help for their nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some were sent to Tufts Medical Center's emergency department because they were dehydrated, but none of them needed to be kept at the hospital overnight.
Dr. Anita Barry, director of the Boston Public Health Commission's Infectious Disease Bureau, said laboratory tests ruled out such bacterial causes as salmonella, shigella, or campylobacter. The symptoms and the way the illness has spread so easily point to norovirus, she said.
Inspectors from the commission recommended measures the college could take to cut down on transmission of the virus, such as eliminating salad bars and other self-serve food from its dining halls and cleaning bathrooms more frequently. The college has sent frequent message to students, faculty, and staff urging them to wash their hands, not share food utensils, and alert custodial staff to sick roommates. Elevator buttons, shared computer keyboards, and exercise equipment have all been getting extra cleaning attention, and will until further notice, Tiedemann said.
For each of the last two days, only one student has come to health services with stomach symptoms, he said. "We seem to be coming out of the woods this week."
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