Four sickened at UM found to have Norwalk virus

70 high school students on visit became ill Sunday

August 11, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Four high school students have tested positive for a virus after they and nearly 70 other youths became sick Sunday while visiting the University of Maryland, College Park, Prince George's County authorities said yesterday.

The students had a norovirus commonly known as the Norwalk virus, probably best known recently for causing widespread illnesses on cruise ships, authorities said. Testing on the other students is continuing, but all have been treated or discharged from Doctors Community Hospital of Prince George's County in Lanham or Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. Authorities said they believe the virus has been contained.

Authorities were unsure how the students were infected. The virus is transmitted through vomit or stool residue on food or through surroundings like a pool. Although those infected may have symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea for up to 60 hours, the virus is rarely fatal.

The students were part of a group attending a National Student Leadership Conference at the university. They arrived at the school on Friday and were served box lunches Sunday, although it is unclear how many ate the meal. They also visited Baltimore that day.

University of Maryland officials evacuated LaPlata Hall, where all the infected students were staying, and workers are disinfecting the dorm and other places where the students were. Not all of the students staying in LaPlata Hall became ill.

School officials said the dorm would reopen next week.

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