July 11, 2020

Outbreak of Gastroenteritis at George Mason University

On June 21, 2012, according to the Fairfax County Health Department, 40 teens and young adults at the George Mason University Campus became ill with gastroenteritis. They are members of a summer camp group affiliated with the Congressional Awards Foundation. Twenty-one of the students were hospitalized.

food poisoningThe Health Department believes that viral gastroenteritis is the cause of these illnesses. The government is investigating whether or not food was the initial cause of the illness, but they  think the virus spread person-to-person.

George Mason University has cleaned the dorm rooms where the patients were staying and is working with state and local officials to investigate the outbreak.

Gastroenteritis can be caused by several different viruses, including norovirus. Symptoms of norovirus and gastroenteritis include vomiting and diarrhea, along with fever, chills, muscle aches, and headaches. Norovirus and other viral ailments are spread through contaminated food, close contact, and touching contaminated surfaces.

The Fairfax County Health Department has said that to limit the spread of viral gastroenteritis, you should always wash your hands after using the bathroom, before preparing food, and before eating; stay home when you’re sick; and clean contaminated surfaces and clothing after an illness.


  1. The time course on the illnesses should speak to the source. If forty people got sick literally all within a short time period it is more likely to be a single source such as food poisoning. I suspect the University and the Health Department will be slow to conclude that for obvious reasons. Gastroenteritis from using the same toilet, wash cloth and or touching contaminated surfaces etc would be very unlikely to sicken so many in such a short time.

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