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County tests show that norovirus responsible for illness at WFU

By Kevin Cox
336.758.5237
March 31, 2004

The Forsyth County Department of Public Health has found that a norovirus is the cause of the outbreak of gastrointestinal illness on Wake Forest University’s Reynolda Campus.

County officials informed the Wake Forest Student Health Service on March 30 that recent laboratory tests found that a norovirus is causing the illness resembling the “stomach flu,” with symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and sometimes a low-grade fever. The tests confirm the county health department’s earlier announced suspicion that a norovirus was the cause.

The Student Health Service had treated more than 160 students for the gastrointestinal illness since March 20, according to Dr. Cecil Price, director of the Student Health Service. Students with symptoms of the illness, particularly if they are having trouble holding down fluids, should go to the Student Health Service, Price said. Faculty and staff on campus with the same symptoms should see their physician.

Price said that the county health department is continuing to look for the source of the outbreak. County officials have told the Student Health Service that there is no evidence that the outbreak of gastrointestinal illness started in any on-campus or off-campus eating establishment.

The university distributed an e-mail on March 31 to students, faculty and staff to inform them that a norovirus is the cause of the illness, described as lasting one to two days. It is not life-threatening. However, it may cause dehydration.

Price describes noroviruses as “very contagious.” People who have been ill with a norovirus-associated illness may continue to be contagious for up to two weeks after recovery. E-mails distributed to the community have offered suggestions on how to prevent transmission of the illness, including frequent hand washing.

The outbreak is similar to others that have occurred on college campuses in North Carolina and other states during the winter, according to county health officials.


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