GW Public Health Update

February 15, 2012

Student Health Service has confirmed that norovirus is the viral origin of cases of gastrointestinal illness occurring at GW.

The confirmation was made through testing conducted in coordination with the D.C. Department of Health, and similar symptoms are being seen across the Washington, D.C. metro area and around the country.

As of yesterday, approximately 85 cases of gastrointestinal illness have been identified among GW students since Monday, with the vast majority contacting or visiting the GW Student Health Service in the last 24 hours. There is no single commonality among the cases, which have occurred among students living on the Foggy Bottom Campus, Mount Vernon Campus and off-campus, taking classes, studying and dining in many different locations.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to take measures to prevent the spread of norovirus, including washing hands frequently and disinfecting surfaces. The university is increasing cleaning of heavily used common areas, including the Marvin Center, Gelman Library and the Lerner Health and Wellness Center, to aid in this effort. Hand sanitizer also continues to be supplied at stands located in high-traffic areas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus is passed through direct, close contact with an infected person; eating food or drinking liquid contaminated with norovirus; or by touching surfaces contaminated with norovirus and then placing hands or fingers in the mouth.

Symptoms of norovirus infection usually include diarrhea, throwing up, nausea and stomach cramping. Other less common symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and general sense of fatigue. These symptoms are often referred to as the “stomach flu”; however, unlike the actual influenza virus, gastrointestinal illness is not spread by sneezing, coughing or other airborne routes. Additional information about norovirus has been posted on Campus Advisories.

While symptoms can be uncomfortable, norovirus illness is usually not serious and most people get better in one to two days. There is no drug treatment or vaccine for norovirus. It can lead to severe dehydration, and those experiencing symptoms are encouraged to increase their intake of fluids. Illness can be more serious in young children, the elderly and people with other underlying medical conditions.

Students with symptoms may seek advice from the GW Student Health Service in person or by phone, by calling the clinical line at 202-994-6827, which is available during regular office hours and after-hours. Students are encouraged to call the clinical line for assessment before visiting in person.

Any additional updates will be provided as soon as possible and posted on Campus Advisories.

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