Roughly 60 students at Fairfield University have come down with what experts believe is the stomach bug norovirus and a handful have been hospitalized due to dehydration from their condition.
University spokeswoman Martha Milcarek said the school became aware of the outbreak Tuesday evening when students began showing such symptoms as vomiting and diarrhea. About 20 students were reported sick by Wednesday and, as of Thursday morning, roughly 60 students and two or three staff members were ill.
Milcarek said it was initially unclear what had made the students and staff ill, but now it seems likely that they have norovirus, a contagious illness that causes the stomach or intestines (or both) to get inflamed.
She said state and local health officials are investigating the situation, interviewing and testing some of the afflicted students.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus causes about 21 million illnesses every year and contributes to about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths.
Milcarek said four students have been hospitalized due to dehydration, but everyone seems to be recovering. She said university staff are working to clean and disinfect areas such as common rooms, dining halls and other areas used by a lot of people.
If all goes well, Micarek said she expects the outbreak to calm down by the weekend.
The university sent out a mass email yesterday informing students and others on campus about the illnesses. Fairfield senior Susan Espanzio, 20, said she had heard about the outbreak but didn't know anyone who was afflicted. However, she said she'd heard a lot about the sickness from other students through social media. "I've heard a lot of stories about people, like, vomiting," she said.
But she's not too concerned about catching the illness. Espanzio said she lives in an apartment on campus, not the residence halls, and doesn't eat in the dining halls.
In the meantime, Milcarek said officials are "watching the situation and seeing if there's a need for additional communication."