Brae Surgeoner, Doug and I had a paper published in the September 2009 Journal of Environmental Health about some research we conducted in the Winter of 2006. The study came about because a whole bunch of kids in the University of Guelph’s residence system started puking from an apparent norovirus outbreak. There were lots of handwashing signs up and we wanted to know whether they changed hygiene behavior (especially if kids were using the tools available when entering the cafeteria). Turns out that students weren’t doing as good of a job at hand hygiene as they reported to us.
Norovirus awareness, including the limitations of alcohol-only-based hand sanitizers have come along way, but outbreaks at universities are still pretty commonplace. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Emory University has been experiencing an increase of noro-linked illnesses over the past week.
As of Friday, 89 students sought care for gastroenteritis at either the student health center or University hospital, according to Beverly Clark, University spokeswoman. Other students have been ill and treated themselves, Clark said.
Patient samples from last Wednesday, the first day of the outbreak, tested positive for the Norovirus, Clark said. The State of Georgia Lab and Emory Medical Lab each tested the samples, confirming the virus Friday night.
In a letter sent to the campus community Saturday, an Emory doctor said the exact cause of the outbreak has not been identified. But some campus dining food samples are being tested. Emory Dining Services sanitized with chlorine-based cleaners Saturday morning, according to Michael J. Huey, assistant vice president and executive director for the Emory University Student Health and Counseling Services.
“While most of us are not fond of the smell of chlorine, when you smell it on the Emory campus over the next few days, it is a good thing,” Huey wrote.