Minnesota Officials Investigating Potential University Norovirus Outbreak

Public health officials in Minnesota are in the midst of  an investigation into a possible outbreak of norvirus on the University of Minnesota campus. The reports, confirmed by multiple official Twitter posts and local news outlets, indicate that as many as 28 students living in Frontier Hall became ill earlier in the week, exhibiting symptoms that include vomiting and diarrhea.

Last Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Public Health began receiving reports about incidences, and has announced that they suspect the culprit is norovirus, which has caused outbreaks at multiple colleges this spring, including Michigan and Berkeley.

The Department of Public Health is asking sick students what and where they have been eating, according to Doug Schultz, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health..

For their part, the University is disinfecting numerous residential halls – Frontier, where the initial 28 cases occurred, and three others – as a precaution. They are disinfecting an additional two dining halls as a precaution, says University spokesman Steve Henneberry. All students have been notified about the outbreak as an extra precaution.

The university is encouraging students to be “extra-vigilant” about hand-washing, and are being warned not to share any food, eating utensils or drinks.

Henneberry says the virus typically lasts only 24 hours.

Norovirus in a Nutshell: A Quick Primer

The highly-contagious norovirus, often also called “viral gastroenteritis” or “stomach flu,” is evidenced by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and, in some cases, severe stomach cramping. Additional, though less common, symptoms include chills, headache, low-grade fever, lethargy, and muscle aches.

Illness onset is sudden, and the symptoms are often acute. In most, the virus will self-resolve within 24 to 48 hours; and children often experience more vomiting than adults.

The virus spreads person-to-person and through food, particularly in crowded and enclosed spaces. This explains why the virus is commonly seen in environments such as hospitals, universities, cruise ships and even prisons.

The virus is estimated to cause more than 20 million cases of illness annually.