Norovirus spreads around campus, affects students in the weeks following spring break

Lauderdale Health and Counseling Center (pictured above) informed the college of a stomach virus that has spread throughout the campus. Students returning from spring break brought the illness to campus (Udeshi Seneviratne/ Photo Editor).

Lauderdale Health and Counseling Center sent out an email on Thursday April 4 regarding the stomach virus that has spread throughout the college.

The email detailed an increase in cases of viral gastroenteritis, likely caused by the norovirus that is often seen after student travel.

Interim Principal Student Health Administrator and Health & Counseling Medical Director Steven Radi spoke on the nature of the highly contagious norovirus. 

“Norovirus is a very common ubiquitous virus,” Radi said. “It tends to visit us in this latitude sometime late in the fall, winter and into early spring and it tends to be very contagious in a way that that causes large outbreaks in areas such as hotels and cruise ships.”

Radi said that the virus is spread through oral-fecal contamination and emphasized the importance of washing your hands during this time. He said that the virus can live on inanimate objects for a period of time, which promotes its widespread impact.

“People call it 24-hour, but the worst part is the first part and that’s when people really start with nausea and vomiting. As the email may have said, it’s really predominant in that first 12-24 hours. It’s common to have body aches, chills and sweats with it as well,” Radi said. “After that, the nausea and vomiting tend to stop, however diarrhea is predominant and may go on for a couple of days until it all revolves on its own.”

While Radi declined to disclose an exact number of outbreaks, he noticed a significant increase of the norovirus following spring break travels.

“We just noticed last week that we were having more than usual [cases] so it’s hard for me to say,” Radi said. “Being a campus public health person, I’m the person who really kind of looks closely at what we’re seeing all the time whether that be influenza, whether that be strep throat or gastroenteritis which is what this causes, so just noticing when we are having peaks is important.”

Biology major junior Alyssa Smith felt the onset of symptoms last Tuesday while studying in an academic building.

“Last week, I was in Bailey studying and when I went to the bathroom, someone was throwing up in the stall next to me,” Smith said. “Next thing I know, I’m running to the bathroom at midnight and profusely vomiting. I wasn’t able to eat because the symptoms lasted for four days and I had weakness and a serious loss of appetite.”

Although this virus has unfortunately affected many students and faculty, Radi said there is good news in regard to the future of the norovirus and its campus presence.

“There is currently a development of a vaccine for norovirus. What I hear about that is that there is great progress, and I think we are going to see a vaccine,” Radi said. “Now, will it be in five years or 10? I’m not sure, but we are definitely going to be seeing a vaccine at some point.”

Despite student concern about the stomach bug being triggered by on-campus food, Radi assures the campus community that this is not the case.

“Some thoughts about food poisoning are valid because if you read the news, we have outbreaks all around this country every year of some types of foodborne illnesses,” Radi said. “I’ve never seen food poisoning here, or from food that CAS makes. One of the things we do is check in with is CAS and see whether they have had any reported vendors. But in my almost 17 years here, we’ve never had a foodborne gastroenteritis outbreak."