University officials still have not identified the cause of an outbreak of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that had sent more than 30 students to Campus Health Services as of Thursday afternoon.
Mary Covington, executive director for Campus Health, said the UNC Hospitals emergency room reported several student cases Thursday morning, and students came to Campus Health throughout the day to receive fluids.
symptoms of outbreak
Students have reported the following symptoms:
“Fortunately, most students are doing quite well,” she said. “We’ve been giving them fluids sometimes by mouth and sometimes using an IV and medicine to help with the nausea.”
She said samples have been sent to a state laboratory for testing, and results could come in as soon as today.
Mike Freeman, director of Auxiliary Services, said officials won’t know until the tests come in whether the outbreak is a virus or food poisoning.
He said that until the cause is identified, Carolina Dining Services is on alert.
“We’ve talked to all the managers and told them we need to heighten our awareness,” Freeman said. “We’re trying to be proactive.”
He said that if it is food poisoning, CDS will be able to pinpoint the food causing the sickness and quarantine it, then inform appropriate authorities so the supplier can be investigated.
But Freeman said that while it is too soon to speculate, he doesn’t have any reason to believe that it is food poisoning.
“I’m guessing based on what I’ve heard that it’s not food, it’s a virus,” he said.
He said the University’s dining facilities are inspected every three months, and the Top of Lenoir was inspected on Tuesday, receiving a 99.5 percent health score.
Sophomore Ankita Anekal is one of the students who went to Campus Health with symptoms of nausea and dizziness. She said she started to feel sick Wednesday night immediately after eating at Top of Lenoir dining hall.
“My stomach started feeling weird as soon as I walked out of there,” she said.
Anekal said she ate Creole chicken and rice, a pork quesadilla, fries and pizza.
Covington said that not all of the students who have visited Campus Health with symptoms have reported eating at the dining halls.
Mary Beth Koza, director of the Department of Environment, Health and Safety, said housekeepers and staff have been alerted of the outbreak and have been reminded to wear gloves while cleaning.
“We don’t know exactly what illness it is, but we want to make sure people wash their hands frequently,” Koza said. “Right now we’re suggesting people use Clorox wipes when they’re cleaning things or bleach solution.”
Covington also stressed washing hands as a method of prevention.
“Hand sanitizers might not be effective against all organisms that cause this outbreak,” she said.
Covington said the last time the University saw a similar outbreak was in 2004. The norovirus swept through campus, affecting about 66 students on the first day.
Koza said that until the test results come in, officials will have to wait before determining what steps the University needs to take to fix the problem.
“Orange County Health Department will give us specific directions at that point,” she said.
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