Tests confirm that the Norovirus outbreak caused 89 Emory students to get sick.

Norovirus to blame for illness outbreak at Emory University

The highly contagious Norovirus is the culprit for the recent outbreak of gastrointestinal illness at Emory University, the University said Monday.

As of Friday, 89 students sought care for gastroenteritis at either the student health center or University hospital, according to Beverly Clark, University spokeswoman. Other students have been ill and treated themselves, Clark said.

Patient samples from last Wednesday, the first day of the outbreak, tested positive for the Norovirus, Clark said. The State of Georgia Lab and Emory Medical Lab each tested the samples, confirming the virus Friday night.

The virus causes inflammation in the stomach and intestines, causing pain, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting, according to the CDC. Norovirus is spread through contaminated food or water or by touching a contaminated surface, and is easily spread from an infected person. An estimated 21 million cases a year are diagnosed.

In a letter sent to the campus community Saturday, an Emory doctor said the exact cause of the outbreak has not been identified. But some campus dining food samples are being tested. Emory Dining Services sanitized with chlorine-based cleaners Saturday morning, according to Michael J. Huey, assistant vice president and executive director for the Emory University Student Health and Counseling Services.

“While most of us are not fond of the smell of chlorine, when you smell it on the Emory campus over the next few days, it is a good thing,” Huey wrote.

There is no vaccine for the Norovirus, but the symptoms can be treated, Huey said. Washing hands frequently with soap and water is key to stopping the spread of the virus, he said.

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