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Stonehill goes viral: Illness sweeps campus

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Medical vehicles arrive outside Health Services to transport ill students to the hospital. Photo by Aimee Chiavaroli

Medical vehicles arrive outside Health Services to transport ill
students to the hospital. Photo by Aimee Chiavaroli

By Liam Dacko & Aimee Chiavaroli

After a chemical spill in the Science Center and a bomb threat in the Old Student Union earlier this semester, one would think life at Stonehill would begin to quiet down; however, that is not the case.

The College saw a rash of students falling ill last week because of a norovirus cluster that took over campus beginning Nov. 12.

“The [Massachusetts Department of Public Health] informed us today that testing by the State Public Health Laboratory confirmed that diagnosis,” Director of Health Services Maria Sullivan said in an email to the community Nov. 16.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Each year, 19 to 21 million people suffer from gastroenteritis in the United States.

Students who have fallen victim to the virus, which has a 24 to 72 hour life cycle, experience a variety of symptoms, including abrupt onset of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, Director of Communications and Media Relations Martin McGovern said in an email to The Summit.

Sullivan said students who have fallen ill are at the risk of dehydration because of the symptoms.

“It is important to drink fluids and slowly advance fluid intake and solids as tolerated,” Sullivan said.

Health Services treated a total of 50 students Nov. 12 and 13 for issues related to the virus.

“Since Friday, when the number stood at 50, Health Services has heard from 30 students over the past four days as the trend continues downward,” McGovern said in an email to The Summit Nov. 17.

Stonehill officials have collaborated with Compass Medical, a local urgent care facility, and Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton to transport students.

“They both have been wonderful in treating our students who may require additional care,” McGovern said in a press release.

Prior to the norovirus diagnosis, the wave of illness was rumored to be the result of food poisoning.

“My doctor [at Health Services] mentioned it seemed to be a trend of people eating meat at The Hill last night, but it wasn’t definite,” Ryan DiFalco ’16 said Nov. 12.

However, McGovern later confirmed the illness was not related to food poisoning.

“There is no indication that there was food poisoning. Viral gastrointestinal illness is very common and spreads rapidly where people are in very close contact with each other,” McGovern said in an email to The Summit.

The College’s response to this outbreak includes “the direct care of our students, as well as advice on prevention and recuperation measures,” McGovern said.

Students are advised to practice “good hand hygiene” in light of this outbreak.

Good hand hygiene is absolutely essential in limiting any potential spread of this virus,” Sullivan said. “Wash your hands regularly and vigorously with soap and hot water.”

If students continue to experience symptoms of persistent vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness or dizziness, they are advised to seek medical attention.

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