Virus Infects 130 Students at USC Over Weekend

Stomach Virus hits USC campus
Photo by Here in Van Nuys via Flickr

USC officials notified students of a contagious gastrointestinal virus that had infected around 30 individuals on Friday night. But by Saturday afternoon, around 75 students were reported having the virus and on Sunday night, another notification was sent out via e-mail and text—the number had reached about 130 students (e-mail in full posted below).

"In the past two days, the students have arrived at on- and off-campus medical facilities exhibiting symptoms of a contagious, but self-limiting, virus: with vomiting, diarrhea and stomach-cramping," the e-mail alert told students, staff and faculty.

Working with the university to contain the disease, LA County Public Health says this is part of the norovirus family, "a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis (GAS-tro-en-ter-EYE-tis) in people," to quote a fact sheet (.pdf) given to students.
in people. Although the County says the disease is usually not serious, "the illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick." It lasts one to two days with nausea, stomach cramping, diarrhea and vomiting. Sometimes, symptons include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. No preventative vaccines or antiviral medication exist to help ward off the virus—washing hands frequently and avoiding sharing food and drink are highly recommended.

October 5, 2008

To: The USC Community
Fr: Michael Jackson, Vice President, Student Affairs
Todd Dickey, Senior Vice President, Administration

Re: Update: Contagious Gastrointestinal Virus


As you may know, our campus has been affected by a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus. Here is an update on what we know:

About 130 USC students have fallen sick with a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus.

In the past two days, the students have arrived at on- and off-campus medical facilities exhibiting symptoms of a contagious, but self-limiting, virus: with vomiting, diarrhea and stomach-cramping.

USC is offering medical aid to those students who need it through the University Health Center and LA emergency responders.

We are urging students who are not feeling well -- or who have had contact with other sick students -- to avoid socializing and take every precaution to reduce the chance of infecting their fellow students.

The suspected virus can be contagious for several days after a person recovers; therefore the University is asking everyone in the USC community to frequently wash hands, especially after eating, preparing food, or using the restroom.

Symptoms of the virus are short lived, lasting 1-2 days, and most cases can be managed with rest and fluids. In some cases dehydration may need to be treated by a doctor.

Campus offices and classes will continue to operate as usual, however we are asking USC faculty and staff to take reasonable precautions to help contain spread of the virus. If you are not feeling well, call your supervisor and request to take a sick day. If you fall ill at work, please notify your supervisor and then contact your usual health care provider. In an emergency, dial 911.

The entire campus community - students, faculty, and staff - are asked to take extra hygiene precautions: wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer gels or wipes, refrain from sharing work stations, food, and beverages.

Please note that those staff who are dealing in a very direct way with sick students will take additional protections to ensure their safety, including, in some cases, use of masks and gloves.

Because of the need to sanitize any affected areas, please notify custodial staff immediately if there are areas in USC facilities that need cleaning.

The housing office will, as possible, make available hand purifier gels and sanitary wipes.

Student Residence Update

Residence Halls: all common areas and restrooms in residence halls on campus have been thoroughly cleaned, and staff will intensify cleaning as needed. Students needing maintenance in their facility are asked to phone: 213-740-4646 [24 hour service].

All campus hospitality facilities have been cleaned top to bottom, and hospitality will conduct multiple cleanings daily.

The administration is providing additional sanitation measures to university-owned housing and Greek Row. In addition, cleaning supplies will be made available to students living in non-university housing. Students needing supplies are asked to contact the housing office.

Health Precautions

If you are ill:
• Drink plenty of clear liquids to stay hydrated.
• Do not prepare food for others. Make sure to wash your hands
before and during preparation of your own meals.
• Stay home and recover to avoid passing the illness to others.

If you need special assistance, please contact the Department of Public Safety at 213-740- 4321 or call 911.

Tips for staying healthy include:
• If you are healthy, avoid contact with sick people.
• The most important tool against illness is good hand-washing.
Wash your hands often, especially before and during meal preparation,
and after using the restroom.

USC is working with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to contain and prevent the further spread of this illness. For more information on how to prevent illness and stay healthy, please visit the Public Health website at:
http://www.lapublichealth.org/acd/docs/NorovirusFactSheet_06.pdf

Thank you.

Sent by Carey Drayton to Students (all), Faculty, Staff, Alumni , Parents, Visitors (e-mail accounts) through USC Trojans Alert