Hope College estimates 400 students, staff struck by norovirus-like illness


Source of Article:  http://www.mlive.com/grpress/news/index.ssf/2008/11/hope_college_estimates_400_stu.html

y Kym Reinstadler | The Grand Rapids Press

Monday November 10, 2008, 11:06 AM

HOLLAND -- Hope College looked like a ghost town on Sunday -- day four of a contagious noroviris-like outbreak which caused Ottawa County Health Department officials to order the campus to close Friday.

Hope College officials say since Friday, more than 400 staff and students have come down with symptoms of the nasty flu that has been knocking down people like bowling pins.

The small liberal arts college is now unlikely to open before Wednesday, according to the college.

Earlier Sunday, the college said the number of reported cases of the flu-like illness causing vomiting and diarrhea for 24 to 48 hours climbed to 180, but many students felt those numbers self-reported to the health department are low.

"About half my friends have gotten sick and several didn't go to a clinic because it's a viral illness and doctors can't really do anything for you, anyway," said Katie Opatik-Duff, a freshman.

She created a Facebook page for the campus community called "Hope College: The Great Plague of 2008," because she wanted to find out how many people the brief but miserable illness laid low.

About one third of the 3,200 campus community had registered at the site Sunday, 14 percent of whom said they are sick or had been.

"It's a pretty good representative sample, and based on it my estimate is that 400 people got sick," said Duff, who returned home to Middleville on Friday to try to avoid getting sick. She lives in Dykstra Hall, which was hard-hit by the virus.

By Sunday evening, the college had updated its sickness numbers.

"Many of the reports are coming from students who chose to leave campus when the order was issued on Friday and are now ill," reads a statement from the college issued around 5:30 p.m.

Health officials strongly urged students to remain on campus, but not congregate, to help stop the spread of the infection. Many students able to travel decided to go home, anyway. People typically remain contagious three days after recovering, health officials said.

Students are trying to keep a sense of humor about the mystery bug. The Facebook page offers T-shirts for sale that say "Norovirus '08" on the front and "Victim -- The college is not being quarantined ... students are encouraged to remain calm" on the back.

Campus cleaning crews were busy last weekend inside all campus buildings, sanitizing common surfaces. Phelps Dining Hall, the main cafeteria on campus, has re-opened for take-out orders served in disposable containers.



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