Illness update: norovirus is source of sickness

Photo by Sara Schmitt

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, Stamps Health Services released an announcement that, with the help of the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness (FCDH), they had discovered the source of the sickness that spread through campus following fall break.

The culprit was the common, rapidly spreading virus known as norovirus. While the illness is most commonly known to spread through food, because of the nature of the virus it can easily spread through person-to-person contact.

In this case, Stamps has not identified the source of the virus, just that it came to campus after students returned from fall break.

“No common food source, activity, or dining or residence location has been identified as the origin,” reads the article posted on Stamps website.

From Oct. 11, the day students returned from fall break, to Oct. 24, Stamps received 136 patients reporting some of the common symptoms of norovirus: vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.

Additionally, the FCDH also launched a survey for everyone to report on, regardless of their association with Tech. As of Oct. 20, 226 people completed the survey with 194 reporting symptoms of norovirus.

While the illness has been identified, Stamps is still warning students, faculty and staff to be wary of the illness. If proper steps to prevent the spread of norovirus are not taken, the illness may still circulate on campus for weeks or months from now.

At this point, while the number of reported cases have declined, it is still up to everyone at Tech to halt the spread. Many campus departments have and are continuing to work with Stamps in an effort to stop the spread.

Housing and Campus Recreation have both thoroughly cleaned “high-touch” areas, with Campus Recreation even deep cleaning the locker rooms in the CRC.

Dining Services has had North Avenue dining hall inspected by the FCDH and received an A grade for cleanliness. Next week, Brittain dining hall will be inspected, but in the meantime all foods were verified to have never entered the temperature range which foster the growth and spread of bacteria.

Beyond departments, individuals may hold the most power in stopping the spread of norovirus. Stamps continues to encourage students to follow a strict set of guidelines in order to halt the spread of the virus.

First, students who are experiencing symptoms should stay home until they are symptom free for 48 hours. This is the biggest step in preventing the spread; if sick students continue to intermingle with those who are healthy, the disease will continue to spread.

Second, all people on campus, regardless of whether they are sick or not, should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds. It must be washing hands, as alcohol-based hand sanitizers are ineffective against norovirus.

Finally, students should properly clean and prepare their living space. Food, clothing and everyday surfaces should be cleaned.