The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday March 28th

Norovirus outbreak begins to decline

A recent outbreak of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that has been linked to norovirus has apparently subsided — but officials aren’t ready to relax yet.

As of Monday, more than 90 students had been affected with the symptoms, said Mary Covington, executive director of Campus Health Services.


To prevent becoming affected with norovirus, the Orange County Health Department recommends:

  • Washing hands regularly for at least 20 seconds
  • Disinfecting surfaces with bleach products
  • Doing laundry with hot water, especially if a roommate or housemate has been sick

Norovirus causes symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and nausea, and it typically lasts 24 to 48 hours.

Covington said there is no single treatment for the virus — which also hit campus in 2004 — and medications are given based on what symptoms patients are showing.

“If people are throwing up, you give them medication that will make them less nauseous and less likely to throw up,” she said.

“If people are dehydrated, then you would need to give fluids.”

Campus Health Services worked with the Orange County Health Department to identify the virus.

Stacy Shelp, spokeswoman for the health department, said the organization has been working with the University and the N.C. Division of Public Health to try to identify the source of the outbreak.

“When we did start seeing significant numbers of students being seen at Campus Health Services and in the UNC emergency department, it kind of triggered a flag,” she said.

Shelp said talks of how to approach the outbreak have been collaborative.

The health department had multiple conference calls with several University departments and the Division of Public Health to discuss steps to take.

Shelp added that the outbreak seems to have subsided, because the health department is seeing fewer new students with norovirus symptoms.

Rick Bradley, assistant director of the Department of Housing and Residential Education, said his department’s role is to keep students informed about what norovirus is and how it can be prevented.

“Most of it at this point is prevention of the continued spread,” he said.

Bradley also said housekeeping has purchased new, chlorine-based chemicals, which will be used to clean bathrooms where students have been affected.

Mike Freeman, director of auxiliary services for Carolina Dining Services, said the dining halls have undergone two major cleanings in the last week — one when the outbreak first happened last week and again Monday.

These involved wiping down every surface that might have been touched by students, he said.

“This is something we always have to stay on top of as best we can,” Freeman said.

Shelp and Covington both said the outbreak seems to have peaked, but prevention is ongoing.

“What we’re doing is monitoring the situation closely, because sometimes you have secondary peaks,” Covington said.

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