As reports of outbreaks in the state and the country pile up, University of Wisconsin students should take heed: the short-lived but debilitating “Norwalk-like virus” has hit Madison and may be lurking in a UW residence hall or area apartment complex.

The affliction, known as viral gastroenteritis, has been the subject of recent scrutiny after several instances in which large numbers of cruise-ship passengers simultaneously fell ill, complaining of similar symptoms. Recognizing a trend not only in cruise ships but also in Wisconsin schools and nursing homes, UW housing officials notified residents via e-mail about the condition.

“These viruses are transmitted by fecal-oral contamination and person-to-person contact, and are highly contagious,” the e-mail saidd.

Jonathan Zaro of University Health Services said they have not yet seen a lot of cases, but wanted to make students aware that the threat exists.

“It’s highly contagious and definitely something for students to watch out for,” Zaro said.

Symptoms of the condition include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever and body aches. Generally the virus runs its course in 24-48 hours and is not considered dangerous, but it can cause dehydration and is easily transmitted to others.

UHS stressed the importance of drinking lots of clear fluids (such as fruit juice, Kool-Aid or decaffeinated tea) and eating plain solids (such as rice or toast) as part of the treatment of the virus.

Housing officials also underlined the importance of being conscious of basic hygiene to prevent contracting the virus.

For afflicted students, housing officials urged taking time to rest and properly recover.

“If you become ill with acute gastroenteritis please do not go to class (or to work) but stay home, until your symptoms have completely resolved,” the e-mail read.

Zaro agreed that trying to function normally by attending classes and working is a poor idea for students suffering from the virus, given its contagious nature.

“We want to remind the people who want to get right back out there again that they can easily give this to other people,” Zaro said.