Norovirus to Blame for Hundreds of Sick Ursinus College Students

Test results confirmed that norovirus caused 214 Ursinus College students to fall ill last week.

Health officials in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, blamed norovirus for sickening more than 200 Ursinus College students, some of whom required emergency room or urgent care, the college announced as classes resumed Monday.

Test results confirmed that norovirus caused 214 students to fall ill last week.

Officials with the eastern Pennsylvania college said most students fell ill after dinnertime Tuesday and exhibited similar symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration.

Students were taken to various hospitals, including Einstein Medical Center and Phoenixville Hospital. Officials from the Center for Disease Control and the Montgomery County Health Department responded to the hospitals.

"It's been miserable," said La'Shante Cox, a senior at Ursinus who was hospitalized. "It's been absolute misery. I kept throwing up. I kept going to the bathroom and it was an ongoing thing."

Ursinus shut down its dining halls as a precaution while health officials continue to investigate the cause of the outbreak.

"I'm not eating on campus because I'm not willing to risk that everything was cleaned and inspected thoroughly enough to make sure it's safe to eat in there again," said student Karla Pisarcik.

The college's gym was also closed as crews worked to clean surfaces throughout campus.

"This has been a difficult time for students and their families," said Ursinus College President Brock Blomberg. "The safety and wellbeing of our students remains our top priority. We are committed to maintaining regular communication with the community and making students aware of all the medical care resources available to them. We are grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve received from the surrounding community and beyond during this challenging time."

Community restaurants, including Wawa and local businesses, partnered with Ursinus College to feed students as the college canceled classes late last week.

"Health Department officials have notified Ursinus officials of the identification of the organism," said the health department. "The officials indicated that the college has followed all health department instructions, and the illness is now expected to run its course."

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"This is the agent we have suspected since this outbreak began," said Montgomery County Commissioner Dr. Val Arkoosh, a physician and interim medical director of the health department. "While the illness has been truly unfortunate, this has been a model of cooperation between the various health agencies and Ursinus. We will continue to be vigilant and work closely with Ursinus to focus on hygiene measures to reduce transmission."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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