Norwalk outbreak cause concern

Basic hygiene and self-care advocated as most effective infection prevention

Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker got a flu shot in Victoria Hall Wednesday in order to promote shots for students. Students can get vaccinated next week at HCDS if they bring their student card and health card.
Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker got a flu shot in Victoria Hall Wednesday in order to promote shots for students. Students can get vaccinated next week at HCDS if they bring their student card and health card.

Outbreaks of the Norwalk virus at Mount Allison University, St. Francis Xavier University and the University of Alberta have prompted Queen’s to take steps to prevent a similar outbreak here. “Most communities will see outbreaks of Norovirus every year,” said Mike Condra, director of Health, Counselling, Disability Services at Queen’s, adding that a few cases are not uncommon at Queen’s.

Condra said universities are especially susceptible to Norwalk, or Norovirus, because of the close contact students have in residence.

The Norovirus causes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps and commonly lasts for 24 to 48 hours.

“It’s a self-limiting virus,” said Condra. “Once you’ve gotten rid of the contents of your stomach, the virus will be gone.” In mid-October, Mount Allison University and St. Francis Xavier University reported outbreaks of more than 300 cases and more than 50 cases, respectively.

“When it becomes difficult is when a lot of people live close together, because the opportunities for contamination go up.”

Condra said the virus, prone to mutation, may have mutated this year to become more difficult to combat.

“Given that we’ve had minimum activity in the last two years, this could be that we’re seeing a more virulent strain this year,” he said. “We haven’t seen enough locally to know if this has occurred here.”

Condra said an information campaign is the main plan for preventing outbreaks at Queen’s.

“What we’re planning is firstly, for prevention, making sure students and staff get information; secondly, should people become ill, that we’ve got a way of limiting the spread,” Condra said.

Should the outbreak occur here, extra cleaning will occur but providing information will remain the University’s most important tool.

“As much as possible, lots of education about prevention,” he said, adding that dons, resident life co-ordinators, and health and counseling staff have all received information about a possible outbreak.

On Nov. 6, Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker sent students an e-mail outlining the risks of Norovirus and how to prevent infection.

Measures taken at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick to limit the spread of the virus included setting up water stations around campus, limiting contact with food by having staff hand out food and culture, and having extra cleaning crews to clean residences, dining halls, and common areas.

Sheila Blagrade, Mount Allison University spokeswoman, said the outbreak

Caused the university to cancel classes on Oct. 13 and curtail extra-curricular activities for the following week.

“The thinking [was] that we didn’t want to gather large crowds together,” she said. “We didn’t want to bring people on campus who might get sick or bring germs in.”

Blagrade said students have been relatively quick to bounce back from the virus.

“None of our students were so ill they stayed in hospital,” she said. “Our students were all young and able to withstand the virus.”

Blagrade said that when it comes to prevention, nothing beats personal hygiene and self-care.

“Basically its hand washing that is the best preventative measure.”

Flu clinics at the LaSalle Building: Nov. 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Bring your student card and health card.


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