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University of Wisconsin officials scrambled Friday to respond to an apparent growing breakout of norovirus on and near campus.
Though the official tally remains at 63 cases — all within the 1,100-person Sellery Hall — the virus seems to have spread to several Greek houses and off-campus apartment buildings, including Statesider apartments.
“There may be some scattered cases … in off-campus housing and a couple of other Lakeshore dorms,” said University Health Services spokesperson Mary Makarushka. “But there are no cases that are as clearly linked as the ones in Sellery.”
The virus is commonly mistaken as the stomach flu, and symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, headaches and nausea.
After about 60 members of the Delta Gamma Sorority and nearly a dozen members of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity reported symptoms similar to norovirus, UHS epidemiologist Craig Roberts created an online survey that was forwarded to all Greek members.
All Greeks who have experienced symptoms similar to norovirus are being asked to take the survey. Roberts will then compile the results, which will be treated as confidential medical information.
“He will be gathering that data, and it will give us more information on how widespread this outbreak was and how many of these cases fit the description of norovirus,” Makarushka said.
UHS will also be able to conclude if the outbreak actually is norovirus, as has been suspected for about a week.
Delta Gamma President Christine Binkley said in a statement Friday that most of the 60 members who got sick were residents of the Langdon house, though many lived in UW residence halls, where the virus began.
“By the end of the week girls started to feel better,” Binkley said. “We did a full sanitation of the house three times concentrating on the kitchen, bathrooms, hallways and common living spaces.”
Norovirus can be highly contagious in confined areas and is usually passed through stool-to-mouth contact.
In an e-mail to students Friday, UHS informed students of the apparent outbreak and recommended they use soap and water to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before each meal.
Students who get sick are encouraged to stay hydrated by drinking clear liquids, and if they need medical care, to contact UHS at (608) 265-5600.
Infected students are asked to stay away from work and school to avoid spreading the virus, inform their roommates they are sick and clean their bathrooms frequently with a diluted solution of bleach.
“It’s just all about sanitation, the hand-washing, the cleanliness,” said Sarah Van Orman, executive director of UHS. “That’s really the only way to stop it, and it’s really important people just keep that in mind.”
Several other schools have been battling norovirus outbreaks this semester, including Georgetown University, the University of Southern California, the University of Arizona and Hope College in Holland, Mich.