Possible Norovirus Outbreak at MIT

MIT officials say that more than 16 students are ill already.

MIT at night photo via Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock.com

MIT at night photo via Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock.com

MIT Medical is reporting an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis on campus and wants to remind everyone to wash their hands. Yes, even the geniuses at MIT apparently need a reminder to wash their hands.

What is acute gastroenteritis? According to the CDC:

Gastroenteritis means inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines. Many different viruses can cause gastroenteritis, including the norovirus. The main symptoms of gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea and vomiting. The affected person may also have headache, fever, and abdominal cramps (“stomach ache”). In general, the symptoms begin 1 to 2 days following infection with a virus that causes gastroenteritis and may last for 1 to 10 days, depending on which virus causes the illness.

All together now: Eww.

Associate Medical Director Howard Heller says that MIT Medical saw two patients with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea at the beginning of the week and 16 during the day on Wednesday. Sixteen!

According to a press release from MIT, there were a few more possible cases reported overnight and EMS responded to the sick students. Then, as of noon on Thursday, more patients with similar symptoms were filling up MIT’s Urgent Care center. Heller says in the press release that the cases do not appear to be linked to any specific dorm or dining hall.

“This may or may not be norovirus,” Heller says. Norovirus causes a severe and acute form of gastroenteritis, according to the CDC. The virus spreads quickly, especially in dense, semi-closed communities, which makes it ripe for college campuses. “But whether it’s norovirus or not,” Heller explains, “our response should be the same — paying extra attention to practicing good hygiene. Frequent and consistent hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of this type of virus.”

MIT Medical’s director of student health, Shawn Ferullo says that they are monitoring the cases to look for patterns and will take additional precautions if necessary.

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