A suspected norovirus outbreak at a college residence building in Toronto has left hundreds of students sick with symptoms of vomiting, digestive issues, and severe abdominal pain, reports say.
According to an official news release from Humber College, the campus will remain open while Toronto Public Health (TPH) investigates the source of an outbreak that has left approximately 215 students sick in its North Campus student residence building since Thursday.
The cause of the outbreak has not yet been determined, according to CBC, but TPH officials are looking at everything from a norovirus outbreak to a case of mass food contamination, which could have been spread through one of the school's eateries. Neither scenarios have been ruled out.
While symptoms of both ailments are similar—vomiting, abdominal cramping,diarrhea, fever, etc.—the distinction is that norovirus is a viral infection, and is much more elusive than typical food-based bacteria like E. coli. Instead, norovirus is transmitted when microscopic pieces of vomit or fecal matter of a person infected with the virus reaches food, or an object/surface that would allow the virus to reach the mouth of another person.
Initial cases saw 70 students from the North Campus residence report extreme abdominal pain and vomiting. Since then, 135 more have reported feeling sick, 55 students have been to the emergency room, and one has been hospitalized. That person has since been released.
Recommendations have been made by the school as to how to prevent further contamination, as well as for students who are already sick. According to a note published Sunday, students who feel at all ill are to stay away from school and seek medical help, and those that are ill or have recovered are recommended to still avoid campus for at least 48 hours.
"We encourage all our students and faculty to make the best decisions for them in terms of their attendance to campus. But if there are students who are away from class because they have been unwell or they are isolating themselves after feeling better, we'll make sure they don't see any academic disadvantage because of that," Jen McMillen, dean of Humber College, told CBC.
Video of students being led into a nearby hospital by authorities was captured by CTV, and shows some students throwing up into bags and holding their abdomens as they stumble into an emergency room.
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