Gastrointestinal illnesses strike over 70 Emory University students

Emory University officials announced Thursday night that dozens of students had experienced gastrointestinal illnesses in recent days, which has prompted the school to take several actions.

As of Thursday night, 74 students had been treated at Student Health Services and the Emory University Hospital emergency department. News of the students’ illnesses was shared to all Emory students via email by Michael J. Huey, assistant vice president and executive director of Emory University Student Health and Counseling Services. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained a copy of Huey’s email Thursday night.

Huey wrote that the seriousness of students’ illnesses have varied, and that stool cultures from several ill students had been sent to the State of Georgia Laboratory for testing. The college, he added, is working with Emory infectious diseases experts and the DeKalb County Board of Health to determine the cause of the illnesses.

“Gastrointestinal illnesses are caused primarily by viruses, bacteria and food-borne toxins. At this time, the cause of our current cluster of illnesses is unclear,” Huey wrote.

Huey said the DeKalb Health Department inspected the university’s campus dining facilities on Wednesday – shortly after the first students began getting sick – and found no health infractions or issues of concern. All leftover food served on Tuesday has been isolated and is being analyzed, he added, and the dining facility is following several public health protocols, such as replacing common use customer utensils more often than required by health guidelines.

Huey in his email encouraged students to practice good hand washing and hand hygiene techniques to stop the potential spread of gastrointestinal illnesses.

According to its website, Emory had more than 14,000 students enrolled last fall.

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