News, Top Story, Administration

UHS Releases Public Statement On Illnesses

This article has been updated.

Following rumors of a norovirus outbreak—a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus—on campus, Tom Nary, director of University Health Services (UHS), sent an email to the student body titled “Update on Winter Health Issues.” In the email, Nary debunked the reports, clarifying that UHS had not seen any cases of norovirus.

“Contrary to rumor, there have been no confirmed cases of norovirus on campus,” he wrote in the email. “As we experience each year during the flu season, several dozen of our 14,400 students reported to University Health Services this past week with symptoms related to gastrointestinal illness. The students were treated and all have recovered. The number of visits to Health Services continues to decline each day.”

The Heights was unable to find any confirmed cases of norovirus among the student body.

In 2015, over 120 BC students, including 10 members of the men’s basketball team, were infected with norovirus. The outbreak was later linked to a Cleveland Circle Chipotle employee, though it did quickly spread throughout the student body. BC Dining and UHS sent out similar emails and engaged in similar procedures at that time.

Early last week, BC Dining took all self-serve options away and later replaced them with individually wrapped or packaged items.

In an email to The Heights, Beth Emery, director of BC Dining, explained that the measures were in response to the flu-like symptoms across the student body.

“To avoid cross-contamination, Dining Services has closed salad bars and is limiting self-serve items in the student dining halls,” Emery said in her email. “These proactive steps are based on our training and industry best practices to ensure our campus community remains as healthy as possible during the flu season.”

In his email, Nary said that BC Dining had acted “consistent with guidelines from the Department of Public Health.”

BC Dining also began selling “Flu Buddy Packs” in Lower, McElroy, and Stuart dining halls. Priced at $14.99 apiece, each pack contains ramen noodle chicken soup, saltines, bottles of SmartWater and Powerade, and hand sanitizer.

UHS and BC Dining asked students to take extra care to wash their hands, clean often-touched surfaces, and avoid sharing utensils or food containers. Both emails also said that facilities staff had been disinfecting common touch-points, such as light switches, doorknobs, and handrails.

Word of the alleged norovirus outbreak began circulating following BC Dining’s restriction of self-serve options. “BC Memes for Jesuit Tweens,” a BC-centric Facebook group for the student body, featured several “memes” addressing the possibility of a norovirus outbreak. One such image pitted “40 % of freshman at BC,” a reference to Newton Campus residents, against an image of a norovirus viral spore.

Featured Image by Abby Hunt / Heights Editor

February 18, 2019

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