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More Norovirus Reported at University of Wisconsin

Nov 14, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP is reporting that University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) Health officials are confirming that the number of confirmed cases of on-campus norovirus has increased by three to a total of 48.

The norovirus can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping, fever, headaches, chills, muscle ache, tiredness, and diarrhea.  The norovirus strikes quickly, but generally only lasts for one or two days, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.  Norovirus is not one, but actually a group of viruses, that spreads easily and swiftly through direct contact with an infected person or through contaminated food, drink, or objects.

Vomiting and diarrhea appeared as the most common symptoms in this outbreak, according to Craig Roberts, an epidemiologist for the college’s University Health Services speaking to The Badger Herald.  Other common problems include nausea and headaches, the paper notes.  Symptoms generally appear within 12 to 60 hours after exposure and last for about 48 hours; the norovirus is often mistaken for the flu because it causes acute gastroenteritis in humans, notes The Badger Herald.  Meanwhile, WKOW says that UW officials continue to sanitize and speak to students about steps they can take to avoid contracting the norovirus; however, WKOW notes that, “students are concerned the norovirus could become more than a dorm problem.”  Some students are avoiding Sellery Hall, the location in which the sicknesses seems to be concentrated, while others are concerned because sick students—in some cases—are attending classes, reports WKOW.

The article notes that health services at UW states that “UW greek (sic) system has requested information to help fraternities and sororities.”  And, while dozens fell ill at one sorority house, WKOW, reports that these cases have not been confirmed as norovirus.  There is some concern that exact numbers will never be collected as “health care providers are not required to track or report norovirus cases,” said WKOW, which quoted Amanda Kita-Yarbro, Dane County epidemiologist as saying, “The doctor might not even use that word when talking to the patient—norovirus—because they don't know for sure if they haven't done a stool sample ….  Even if it was diagnosed it probably wouldn't be reported."

“A similar outbreak occurred in December 2006 and January 2007 throughout Madison, Wisconsin,” The Badger Herald revealed.  In that outbreak, over “100 people contracted the norovirus at the Veterans Hospital, Monona Terrace, the Willows Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and the Edgewater Hotel,” the paper confirmed.   Also, WDIV-TV news in Mid-Michigan reports that Hope College in Michigan is recovering from an outbreak in which about 420 students, faculty, and staff fell ill since late last week.  Last month we reported that the norovirus had sickened nearly 200 Georgetown University students; most were treated at hospitals.  One student required hospital admission for observation.

There is no cure for the norovirus.  Patients sometimes need to be given fluids intravenously to combat the dehydration caused by frequent vomiting and diarrhea.  In the Georgetown outbreak, many students did require intravenous rehydration.

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