A norovirus outbreak has sickened at least 22 Carleton students, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Public health officials think that the students were sickened after they ate at Hogan Brothers’ Acoustic Cafe in Northfield, Minnesota. Hogan Brothers’ is a popular restaurant in town that serves custom made sandwiches.
The restaurant is temporarily closed to clean and investigate what happened. The college has set up a form to report any stomach illness among students and staff. The college itself is reporting that about 20 to 25 students are ill with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The news release on Carleton’s website states that “it is very unlikely the illness is related to food served in any of the Carleton dining facilities.” The form is to help MDH and Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) track the outbreak. Students are only supposed to call if they have had symptoms that last for more than 24 hours. Carleton is asking that students who are sick stay in their rooms, don’t go to class, and don’t go to the dining hall. They are to rest and stay hydrated and have friends bring them food and drink.
Norovirus is spread through fecal or vomit-oral route. It is very contagious and can be contracted through contaminated food and drink, person-to-person, or by touching surfaces that someone who was ill touched previously. This illness is commonly and incorrectly known as the “24 hour flu” and is usually much more widespread during the cold winter months, when more people stay indoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 23,000,000 people contract norovirus every year in the United States.
The symptoms of norovirus include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, watery or loose diarrhea, a low grade fever, and muscle pain. Most people get better within a few days without medical treatment, but some can become dehydrated, especially if they can’t keep fluids down. Dehydration may prompt hospitalization, especially among those with chronic illnesses and weakened immune systems.
To prevent the spread of norovirus, always wash your hands well before eating or before preparing or serving food for others. Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom and caring for someone who is sick. Stay home if you are sick, especially if you work in a school, medical facility, the restaurant industry, or daycare and have a diarrheal illness.