By Karen Augenstein, For The Miami Student
The norovirus, a highly contagious virus, has become more prevalent at Miami University this winter. Miami Health Services had a traported 225 students come in for treatment, but residence hall monitoring suggests the number could be higher.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those affected with the Norovirus typically exhibit symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and stomach pains. Other symptoms include fever, chills and general aching around the body. The virus typically lasts for one to three days.
Miami Health Services says they have obtained cultures to confirm that the virus is indeed compatible to that of norovirus. Information about the disease is available on any Miami University student’s MyMiami page, including information of symptoms and contacts.
Cynthia Traficant, practice manager at the Miami Health Services Clinic, says college campuses are common areas for such viruses to spread.
“Any time you have large groups of people living in close contact and sharing space, the chance of the spread of virus goes up,” Traficant said. “Those factors make this the perfect storm for this virus to thrive.”
The CDC estimates 20 million cases of different forms of norovirus appear every year, in certain occasions an individual getting infected with more than one type of the virus.
Known as the ‘winter vomiting bug,’ the Norovirus is more likely to show up in winter, which Katie Summers, a professor in the Department of Microbiology, attributes to the cold.
“Some potential reasons are that people are indoors more and so are closer to each other to catch Norovirus or that the virus is able to survive better in the lower temperatures of winter,” Summers said.
Norovirus can be caught in many different ways, but its high virulence rate can be attributed to the fact that the virus can survive on surfaces for as long as three weeks. In addition, the virus can be spread when an infected person comes into contact with food.
Symptoms typically appear after 24 hours, so people often confuse the Norovirus with food poisoning.
Since not all facts about the norovirus are common knowledge, people may take unnecessary measures to prevent getting infected, or take no measures at all.
First-year Elizabeth Winhover says, when it comes to the norovirus, she does not feel the university has done enough to make students aware of the illness.
“I feel very uninformed on the matter,” Winhover said. “Where cases have developed, the extent of the virus, even where to go.”
While there is no cause for immediate alarm, Traficant says being prepared is key to dealing with the virus. One important prevention technique is to wash hands for roughly 20 seconds with warm soap and water, and to either wash down the faucet beforehand or use a paper towel barrier to avoid infecting oneself with germs. Because the norovirus is so resistant, using only hand sanitizer is not adequate prevention.
Traficant says awareness is essential to knowing when to get medical attention
“A person seeking medical help is very individualized,” Traficant said. “We can’t put any time frames, you need to listen to your own bodies. If you are developing a severe headache or having intractable vomiting, severe cramping, or any signs of dehydration, you should seek medical help.”
While students may partake in preventative measures, Summers says avoiding illnesses on campus is difficult, but it is important to be informed so students can do their best to stay healthy.