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UM investigates possible norovirus outbreak

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

With 75-100 University of Michigan students seeking medical care in recent days, officials are investigating a possible norovirus outbreak on the Ann Arbor campus.

Lab results to determine if the illnesses stem from the highly contagious virus won’t be available from the Michigan Department of Community Health until the end of the week, or possibly early next week.

Even so, the number of students who have sought treatment for vomiting and diarrhea — the primary symptoms of norovirus — has led UM’s chief health officier, Dr. Robert Winfield, to say “it’s likely” that it is the virus, UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.

“We’re asking those students to isolate themselves, stay in their rooms and don’t go to class,” Fitzgerald said.

The students who are sick live in the West and South quads. A small number of them reported being ill starting Monday, and the number has grown since.

“Everyone is avoiding south quad like the plague,” UM undergraduate Sabrina Wong said on Twitter.

University officials are instituting deeper cleaning of residential halls and dining areas, Fitzgerald said, and asking other students to practice effective hand washing.

“Good hand hygiene is particularly critical to breaking the chain of transmission,” Winfield said in a statement. “For example, sing ‘The Victors’ (takes 20 seconds) while washing your hands with soap and water.”

While there were reports of a possible delay of the Big Ten Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, Fitzgerald said the four-day tournament is going on as scheduled, beginning Wednesday night.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus inflames the stomach or intestines or both, leading to abdominal pain, nausea, throwing up and loose stools. The virus can be contracted from an infected person or contaminated food, water or surfaces. Symptoms typically last a few days.

This is not the first time there has been a norovirus outbreak on UM’s campus. In 2002, students got sick but Fitzgerald was unable to provide estimates of how many students had the virus.