The virus sends copies of itself to every e-mail address in an infected computer's address book, said Jeanne Smythe, the director of computing policy at Academic Technology & Networks.
Although opening the e-mail message does not infect the computer, opening the attachment can transmit the virus.
Smythe explained how the virus works. "You're going to get a message that says 'new photos from my party' from someone you know," she said. "This spreads fairly quickly."
But the virus is not very destructive, Smythe said. Its main effect is keeping people's computers busy.
Some students received the virus-carrying e-mail multiple times as it spread, partly because the virus found its way into campus listservs.
"I got it like 10 times," said freshman Kristin English. "I don't even know some of the people I got it from."
ATN was first alerted to the virus on Monday morning, Smythe said. In response, the office updated its Web site and put a related message on the computer tech support line at 962-HELP. About 40 students contacted ATN Tuesday to report problems with the virus.
Smythe said removing the virus from an infected machine is not difficult. "Download the latest virus definition files, scan your computer and delete the detected files," she said.
A list of specific virus files and specific instructions on how to remove the virus from an infected computer are listed on ATN's virus Web site at www.unc.edu/atn/virus. The site also contains ways for students to protect their computers from future viruses.