MSU dining hall closed after students hospitalized

Source of Article:  http://www.freep.com/article/20090401/NEWS06/90401078/1008/NEWS/MSU+dining+hall+closed+after+students+hospitalized

BY ROBIN ERB and MEGHA SATYANARAYANA • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS • April 1, 2009

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Updated at 5:59 p.m.

A Michigan State Universityhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gif dining hall has been closed indefinitely after more than 20 students were hospitalized overnight, according to MSU and the Ingham County Health Department.

Those students, suffering from vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramping, began arriving at Sparrow Hospital late Tuesday and have been interviewed about what they may have eaten, and other means of exposure, said Jason Cody, MSU spokesman.

Twenty-one students sought help. None is in serious condition, said John Lux, a hospital spokesman.

The students began arriving in groups at 1:30 a.m., said Robin Roach, nurse epidemiologist and infection control director for Sparrow Hospital. After treating the first three or four students, she said, emergency room staff realized that they were the beginning of a long chain that might follow.

“This is not something that happens at MSU every year,” she said.

The students were sequestered to prevent cross-contamination with other patients. She said interviews with the public healthhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gif department are under way, but it’s too early to tell if the source of the illness is food-related or otherwise. She said the hospital has started discharging those that came in early last night, after rehydrating them and taking samples to test for food-borne illness-causing bacteria.

Lab results could come as early as tonight, she said.

Dean Sienko, head of the health department, and Beth Alexander, MSU’s chief physician, were to meet today with Sparrow Hospital officials to try to determine the cause, according to the health department.

Shaw Hall cafeteria is still closed, but they’ve started serving produce in the other cafeterias. It was unclear if all of the sickened students had eaten at Shaw, a centrally located, recently renovated residence and dining hall.

Earlier this year, several MSU students were hospitalized after eating lettuce contaminated with E. coli. That incident -- the beginning of a statewide outbreak -- was eventually traced to lettuce packaged by a Detroit supplier that ships lettuce elsewhere, as well.

At the dining hall where he works as a student cook, David Hearn said staff put out steak and ribs and burritos for lunch, but the salad bar remained bare.

“We just have things like yogurt and fruit that comes in cans,” said Hearn, a 25-year-old senior from Inkster.

David Cooper, a Huntington Woods telecommunications major, said he still plans to dine on campus, in part, because of his budget. But he said students are well aware of the earlier E. coli outbreak, the national scare over tainted peanut butter, and now this.

The 21-year-old senior said he’ll pick his food carefully tonight. But – then again – how do you do that? he added.

“Everything looks pretty much the same. What is it? The meat? The lettuce? The peanut butter? Who knows?”

Meanwhile, the university is urging students and staff to wash their hands with warm, soapy water for a minimum of 20 seconds. They also should not share any personal items such as toothbrushes, silverware or glasses.

Students showing symptoms are asked to contact Olin Health Center at 517-353-5557.

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At the dining hall where he works as a student cook, David Hearn said staff put out steak and ribs and burritos for lunch, but the salad bar remained bare.

“We just have things like yogurt and fruit that comes in cans,” said Hearn, a 25-year-old senior from Inkster.

David Cooper, a Huntington Woods telecommunications major, said he still plans to dine on campus, in part, because of his budget. But he said students are well aware of the earlier E. coli outbreak, the national scare over tainted peanut butter, and now this.

The 21-year-old senior said he’ll pick his food carefully tonight. But – then again – how do you do that? he added.

“Everything looks pretty much the same. What is it? The meat? The lettuce? The peanut butter? Who knows?”

Meanwhile, the university is urging students and staff to wash their hands with warm, soapy water for a minimum of 20 seconds. They also should not share any personal items such as toothbrushes, silverware or glasses.

Students showing symptoms are asked to contact Olin Health Center at 517-353-5557.

Contact MEGHA SATYANARAYANA at megha@freepress.com or 313-223-4544. Contact ROBIN ERB at rerb@freepress.com or 313-222-2708.

 

 

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