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What’s New with Noro: Norovirus and Cafeteria Protocol

Students stopping for breakfast this morning were pleased to find that the Marian Dining Hall has reopened self-service stations. After 2 weeks of no self-service stations due to norovirus reports, many are left wondering what constitutes the need for protective measures, how long precautions stay in place before the dining services can go back to normal, and what will happen if the virus strikes again.  The Hub spoke with Director of Health Services Lauren Davis on the matter.

Norovirus, also known as the stomach flu, is a viral infection that causes nausea, abdominal cramping, vomiting and diarrhea.  It is very contagious, and can spread quickly on a college campus, according to Emmanuel Health Services.

Davis explained the protocol when a “cluster” of norovirus cases break out on campus.

“We work closely with the Boston Public Health Commission when we either hear or see of what we call a clustering of cases,” Davis said.  “There isn’t really a true definition of a cluster because it really depends on how big your school is.”

People do not only contract Norovirus in the spring.

“We see noro all year long here on campus, but when we start seeing a clustering of cases- 2, 3, 4 cases in a day or two, that’s certainly more than we would normally see, and that’s when we call Boston Public Health,” Davis explained.  “They really instruct us on what to do.”

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Photo by Mairead Scanlon ’19

13 norovirus cases were reported on campus between Jan. 23 and Jan. 30 . Due to Boston Public Health Commission protocol, the Marian Hall Dining Room discontinued self-service stations on Jan. 26. These services were not re-opened until today, Feb. 7. Davis pointed to the cafeteria as a source for norovirus to spread easily.

Boston Public Health sends a food inspector to Emmanuel when there are a significant number of norovirus cases reported.  The inspector examines the cafeteria to make sure all of the protocol is carried out correctly. Health services tracks these cases.

Boston Public Health’s standard of care is that the school must go 6 days without seeing or hearing of any norovirus cases before the cafeteria can go back to normal, according to Davis.

Davis also explained that norovirus is not exclusive to the Emmanuel campus.

“It’s Simmons, it’s every single campus in the COF,” Davis said. “Brandeis and Bentley were having really big problems with noro this past month. I don’t want students and faculty and staff to think it’s Emmanuel, no one else is infected, this campus is not cleaned properly [because] that’s not the case.”

Although norovirus can be contracted anytime of the year, this season in particular seems prone to the illness.

“It really does seem to hit hard every college campus in the spring. This is kind of peak noro time,” said Davis.

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Photo by Mairead Scanlon ’19

Several students expressed opinions about the cafeteria protocol and discontinuation of self-service stations. Patrick Carty ‘20 understands the safety concerns, but is also frustrated.

“If someone is sick, they won’t come to the dining hall in the first place to avoid vomiting in front of the entire student body,” said Carty.

Samantha Dwyer ‘19 expressed frustration that  “it’s causing bigger lines and giving less space to people.”

The norovirus can be transferred by coming in contact with contaminated food or water, an infected person, or by touching contaminated surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some ways to avoid the norovirus are by washing your hands immediately before eating (briskly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds), not touching your mouth and nose, wiping down surfaces before you touch them, not sharing, and protecting your immune system, according to Health Services.

Health services also created noro kits as another preventative measure. The kits consist of information about noro, purell, a mask, thermometers, Health Service contact information, and a sign for the bathroom stall that says “out of order do not use.”

The “out of order do not use” sign is meant to try to contain the germs.

“Hopefully people listen and only the ill person uses that stall,” said Davis.

Davis emphasized that people are contagious for up to 3 days after symptoms stop. She also  expressed that hand sanitizer is not 100 percent effective against noro, but is still better than nothing.

More information on the norovirus can be found on the Emmanuel College Portal, or on the Boston Public Health Commission website.

Mairead Scanlon ’19 is a Staff Writer for The Hub.  She can be contacted at scanlonm@emmanuel.edu.

Posted by on February 7, 2018. Filed under Around Campus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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