Dozens of N.C. State University students have come down with symptoms consistent with norovirus, the university reported, and several have sought treatment at local emergency rooms.
University officials said the outbreak mostly affects undergraduate residents of Alexander Hall, which houses 165 residents, but others who live on and off campus have also been infected, according to Student Health Services at NCSU.
Students began showing symptoms on Tuesday, during final exams week. The Wake County Human Services Department confirmed Thursday afternoon that the cause is norovirus, based on analyses of stool kits distributed to the symptomatic students. Three of four test samples came back positive for norovirus from the State Health Lab, said Julie Casani, director of student health services.
“Once you know you have it, you have it,” said Casani, noting that more testing is not needed and not likely.
Students with gastrointestinal issues and other symptoms are being asked to stay in their dorms throughout their illness in a bid to check the spread of the virus, which is sometimes known as the 24-hour bug and usually runs its course within 48 hours.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain.
Noroviruses are extremely easy to transmit, requiring as few as 10 viral particles to spread the illness, according to online information posted by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
The university is providing “wellness kits,” containing liquids and easy-to-digest foods, to the ill students.
According to the CDC, norovirus spreads easily from infected persons, contaminated food or water, or by contact with contaminated surfaces. Norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States. Outbreaks often occur in restaurants and other food-service settings.
Norovirus can spread quickly in closed places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships. Most norovirus outbreaks happen from November to April in this country.