Norovirus spread ‘far from unusual this time of year’, university prepared to prevent

By Oona Goodin-Smith

As of this morning, the Graham Health Center (GHC) has confirmed eight more reported cases of “norovirus-like illness” for a total of 13 on campus, according to director Nancy Jansen. 

“All students reporting illness have so far been in the residence halls, but they’ve been very spread out in the different halls,” said GHC Health and Wellness Coordinator Julie Proctor.

Jansen said the GHC expects to see more students as the illness runs its course. The GHC and housing offices have issued a confidential survey and are encouraging all students ill with vomiting or diarrhea since Sat., March 7 to self-report.

“There are no commonalities in what people have eaten, so at this point we do not believe there is any affiliation with food,” said Jansen.

Kathy Forzley, health officer and manager for the Oakland County Health Department noted that while the department has “received an uptick in calls” over the last couple days, the spread of norovirus is far from unusual at this time of year.

“‘Tis the season, unfortunately,” Forzley said. She said that due to the disease’s contagious nature, clusters of individuals in concentrated spaces such as cruise ships, families and, in this case, schools, are highly susceptible.

Prevention

Jansen said she couldn’t stress thorough hand-washing as a means of preventing the “highly contagious” virus spread through contact and touching infected surfaces or people enough. She emphasized that hand sanitizers are not particularly effective and no substitute for good old soap and water.

“Students might be in a hurry to return to class,” said Jansen, “but what they don’t realize is that they’re infectious for several days.” 

Jansen said even if students choose to return to class after feeling better, that they should still be careful to isolate themselves as much as possible as the virus is still alive and communicable.

Ill students who sign up for an appointment at the GHC may get a doctor’s note for class.

Although norovirus is a virus and thus cannot be completely cured through medication, Jansen said the GHC does have medicine that will stop consistent vomiting which can lead to dehydration and further complications.

Cora Hanson, manager of Environmental Health and Safety, said that the university custodial staff is also implementing flu protocols campus-wide, including regularly disinfecting commonly-touched areas such bathrooms, light switches, elevator buttons, and counter tops.

For more on norovirus and the Graham Health Center’s services, visit http://wwwp.oakland.edu/ghc/. In an emergency, dial 911.