Officials at the public Miami University in central Ohio have reported that 200 students have been infected with the Norovirus. The reports began on Tuesday Feb 23, with five students, who complained of feeling nauseous, along with symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pains while visiting the school health center at the main campus in Oxford, Ohio.
The Norovirus, sometimes referred to as the stomach flu or food poisoning, results in inflammation of the lining of the large intestine lining and stomach. It is very contagious, and spread easily from infected persons, or contaminated food or water. It can affect anyone, but young children and older adults may be more susceptible, due to undeveloped or weakened immune systems.
In the U.S., it is the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis from food-borne diseases. It can infect up to 21 million people, contributing to up to 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 fatalities annually.
The spokeswoman for the Miami University says that since the reports began, a number of students of a population of almost 20,000 which includes faculty and staff, have confirmed positive testing for Norovirus.
The Miami University has not yet identified the source of the virus, but have been extremely diligent in deterring the spread, with meticulous cleaning in dining halls and residents, and recommendations have been issued for all students to wash their hands with soap and water in place of wipes or antiseptic gels, which are ineffective.
There have been several outbreaks of norovirus over the last few months, with cases reported at restaurants in Kansas and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., and some widespread cases have reported in Canada and other regions around North America. The virus occurs in places such as cruise ships, hospitals and universities, and anywhere people eat and live in close quarters.
During the week of Feb 14, an outbreak at the University of Michigan, in which more than 100 students were infected was reported by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the both the U.S and Canadian Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent outbreaks of the norovirus, is with proper hand hygiene, washing of fruits and vegetables, and infected persons, should not prepare meals for those who are sick.
Because of the viral nature, there is not yet any treatment designed specifically for the infection, however creation of a vaccine is becoming closer, as efforts have been initiated by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. One common symptom that can be addressed is dehydration. Infected persons should drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost with vomiting and diarrhea. Sports drinks, decaffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages may help in milder cases, but important nutrients and minerals should also be replaced. Severe dehydration may also require hospitalization for intravenous fluid replacement.