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Over 125 UM students sick with possible norovirus

The University of Michigan Health System
The University of Michigan
The University of Michigan Health System.

The University of Michigan is investigating a possible norovirus outbreak within their dorms.

Robert Winfield, the university's Chief Health Officer, sent an e-mail to the student body Wednesday night saying between 100-125 students have reportedly come down with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, all signs of norovirus. 

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said most of the cases are concentrated within the South Quad and West Quad dorms, though there are reports coming from elsewhere around campus. 

He added that students have been going to the university's health services center as well as the hospital. 

In an interview, Winfield said norovirus is very contagious, and he asks anyone with symptoms to stay home for at least 48 hours. 

"I would assume that we have many, many, many more students that have been ill that have not made it into health services," he said.

Winfield described norovirus as causing some of the worst vomiting and diarrhea possible. He said students should attempt to self treat with rest and ice chips unless vomiting persists for over 24 hours, at which point they may need medical attention for dehydration. 

As for the source of the outbreak, Winfield says they won't know until test results come back. The test will also determine whether this is in fact norovirus. He said it is possible the spread originated in the South Quad dining hall, which some students suspect, but there's no way of knowing at this point.

As a safety measure Winfield said all the food in the South Quad dining hall has been removed and replaced, and the hall has stopped allowing self-service of food. 

Winfield said he hopes to stop the spread of norovirus quickly,  and he encourages students to keep hydrated and get rest.

Nia Willis, a freshman at U-M, said she developed symptoms Monday night and it was the sickest she's ever been.

"I was throwing up for 12 hours, approximately once every half an hour," she said. "So, that was painful." 

Willis said she did eat at South Quad Monday, but has no way of knowing how she got sick. 

She added that she didn't have a problem missing classes while she was recovering this week, noting that her professors were very accommodating. 

Tiffany Ball, a graduate student instructor for a freshman English class, said nearly half her students missed class Thursday. She said she even sent a student home from class because they were feeling under the weather, not wanting to possibly leave the rest of the class susceptible. 

Ball said this outbreak comes at a bad time, with midterm papers due next week, but she said she's offered the class an extension as needed. 

"It's an inconvenience to the syllabus, but we can work around it," she said. "It's not dire."

With many midterm exams scheduled this week, the university is encouraging sick students to contact their professors about possibly rescheduling their tests. Fitzgerald said the university provost and deans are advising professors to communicate with sick students in case they need extensions or need to have their tests rescheduled. 

The university expects to get test results regarding the outbreak on Friday.