For the second time in five weeks, a confirmed norovirus outbreak is spreading across an Oregon university campus. Earlier this spring, Oregon State University experienced a substantial outbreak of the highly contagious virus, and now, just over a month later, the University of Oregon has confirmed cases of the same virus.
Norovirus Invades the University of Oregon
Tobin Klinger, spokesman for the University of Oregon, confirmed that at least 38 people reported norovirus-like symptoms as of Thursday.
As of this time, however, only a few positive results have been confirmed. Only a small percentage of people demonstrating symptoms of norovirus are actually tested for the organism, however, and the number of cases is likely much higher than the number of positive results.
Anna Lang, University of Oregon student, says students are worried about contracting the virus. “It’s a very serious thing.
It’s intense…like the stomach flu, but ten times worse, so you don’t want to get it. I’m just really scared because it’s not a good night or day if you have it.”
According to Klinger, people started reporting “stomach flu”-like symptoms over the past weekend.
University of Oregon Responds
The university is trying to stay ahead of the virus and contain the outbreak. Once the university received confirmation of positive tests for the virus, custodians at began deep cleaning efforts around campus.
The cleaning efforts are focused on academic buildings, water fountains, residence halls, and “any areas frequently touched,” according to Klinger and local news reports.
In addition to cleaning efforts, Klinger said, the university health center disseminated an e-mail to university students alerting them to the situation and warning them of the virus. The university health center website has also put up an alert advising students how to avoid norovirus.
Unlike administrators in most campus outbreaks, who advise ill students to take a “shelter-in-place” approach unless they experience acute symptoms, Klinger advised any students experiencing norovirus-like symptoms to visit the campus health care center.
Reports indicate that the UO students are taking precautions on campus, but are still very wary of the virus.
County Department of Health and Human Services On Alert
Public health officials in Lane County, where the University of Oregon is situated, are paying close attention to the potential outbreak due to how quickly the virus can spread.
According to Jason Davis of Lane County Health and Human Services, however, the department is not overly concerned with the severity of the virus should the outbreak spread. Davis said that although 20,000,000 people per year are affected by the virus, only 500-800 of those cases will prove fatal.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that an outbreak would occur at the University of Oregon or on any college campus. “A lot of times, [outbreaks are] centered around nursing homes, childcare facilities, things like that so if you think about another area that’s like that we have colleges,” he stated.
The potential for quick spread and the resilience of the virus are what make it so difficult to deal with, he continued.
The number of cases grow at an incredibly rapid rate: “one case causes about two cases…which is…exponential growth, and [the virus] can spread very fast.” Further, the virus “lives on hard surfaces for an inordinate amount of time. Up to 90 days in some cases, it can live on a hard surface.”
Efforts to find the origin of the norovirus cluster are underway, as are efforts to prevent further spread of the virus.
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