Health Advisory: Gastrointestinal Illness on Campus

November 10, 2017

Stamps Health Services, with the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness (FCDH) and the Georgia Department of Health, has identified the unknown gastrointestinal (GI) illness (infection affecting the stomach and/or intestines) that has been spreading on campus as norovirus. Norovirus was confirmed in samples by both FCDH and Emory University on October 25th.

It is unknown how this easily spread virus came to the Georgia Tech campus. It began to spread after students returned to campus from fall break. No common food source, activity, or dining or residence location has been identified as the origin.

Between October 11th and November 9th, Stamps Health Services has seen 235 patients with symptoms of the illness. Additionally, as of October 20th, 226 people completed the FCDH’s survey regarding the illness with 194 people reporting having had symptoms of a norovirus infection. While Stamps Health Services has seen a decline in the number of students coming in for treatment, they are still treating multiple cases each day. From October 23rd through October 27th, clinicians saw an average of 8 patients each day with symptoms of norovirus illness as compared to an average of 20 patients each day the week prior. Norovirus can continue to circulate on college campuses for weeks to months if proper steps are not taken to prevent spread.

Dining Services and Housing, in addition to other campus department such as Campus Recreation, the Student Center, West Village, and Parking and Transportation, continue to use enhanced cleaning procedures to help prevent additional spread of norovirus on campus.

  • Dining Services has cleaned and disinfected with cleaning supplies effective against norovirus at all of their locations.  FCHD inspected the North Avenue dining hall this past week to ensure cleanliness and it received an A rating. Brittain dining hall will be inspected next week. Disposable serving utensils are also being used to help further reduce the risk of spreading germs. They have also verified that no foods were kept at an unsafe temperature that would allow bacteria to grow and spread.
  • Housing continues to use enhanced cleaning procedures, especially in areas where germs are most likely to spread such as restrooms, lobbies, common areas, and “high touch” areas with cleaning supplies effective against norovirus.
  • Campus Recreation has deep cleaned locker rooms, restrooms, and fitness floor areas including machines and mats.
  • The Student Center, West Village, and Parking and Transportation vehicles are also being cleaned with supplies effective against norovirus.

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that is commonly referred to as the “stomach bug” that causes your stomach and/or intestines to get inflamed. Preventing the spread of norovirus at Georgia Tech is everyone’s responsibility. Proper hand hygiene, in addition to maintaining good personal hygiene, is essential for preventing the spread of norovirus. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water especially after using the toilet and always before eating, preparing or handling food.

The best way to prevent yourself from getting and spreading norovirus is to practice good personal hygiene. Here are SIX things YOU can do to help protect yourself and the Georgia Tech community from norovirus:

  1. If you are sick, call Stamps Health Services for an appointment (404-894-1420) and stay home until you have been symptom free for 48 hours. Symptoms typically last 12 to 36 hours.
  2. Practice proper hand hygiene. Wash your hands carefully with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can help reduce the number of germs on your hands, but they do not work well against norovirus.
  3. Do not SHARE food, drinks, eating utensils, drink containers, or clothing – especially athletic gear.
  4. Take care in the kitchen. Carefully rinse fruits and vegetables and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating. People sick from norovirus should not prepare food for others until they have been symptom free for one week.
  5. Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. After vomiting or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. If you don’t have a bleach-based cleaner, you can make a dilute bleach solution by combining 5 tablespoons of household bleach for each gallon of water.
  6. Wash laundry thoroughly. Immediately remove and wash clothing and/or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool carefully. Try not to shake them – this can cause the virus to spread. If you can, wear rubber or disposable gloves when handling and wash your hands after. Wash items with detergent at the maximum cycle length and then machine dry to kill the virus. 

If you are currently experiencing symptoms, contact Stamps Health Services for an appointment (404-894-1420).

For more information about norovirus, visit cdc.gov/norovirus.