CONTINUING COVERAGE: Gastrointestinal Illness Sends 36 to Hospital

According to an e-mail sent to students last night, around 36 students have been treated at Marietta Memorial Hospital for gastrointestinal illness.  However, the total number of those affected is not known, since not all cases are bad enough to send people to the hospital.

Early test results show that the illness is being caused by a bacterium in food or water.

Dr. Rita Kipp left this comment on a previous article, wanting to confirm to students what the definition of food poisoning is.

I am concerned that students understand what “food poisoning” is. Even a Google search will show that the term is an umbrella for a variety of pathogens and GI problems. The most frequent kind of food poisoning is Norwalk-like viruses or Noroviruses. Check out Wikipedia on this term. Once a norovirus or a bacterium is in a community, especially a contained group such as a cruise ship, it spreads person to person, not just directly from food. Noroviruses are pretty contagious. We will know more once we get the lab results whether this is a norovirus. It could well be something else.

Fecal contamination on hands (I hate to bring up a gross subject, but there it is) is one way a Norovirus spreads, so the guidelines we put out about preventing H1N1 would apply here as they do to so many illnesses. Mom was right. Washing hands often and keeping your hands away from your mouth are the best things you can do to stay well. I hope that students understand that this is not just about the food going into their mouths, because watching what you eat is not going to be enough to keep people well if this is a contagious virus or bacterium.

~ Dr. Rita Kipp, Provost and Dean of the College

For now, students should continue to wash hands and follow H1N1 health guidelines, as they are just as effective against the bacterium we’re facing.

If you don’t already have one, consider making a sick kit, with the following supplies.

  • Gatorade or other sports drink (suggestion of 6 bottles)
  • Chicken Noodle Soup (suggestion of 2 or 3 microwaveable bowls)
  • Bottled Water (24 pack)
  • Saltine Crackers (1 Box)
  • Disinfectant spray
  • Disinfectant wipes

After personally dealing with the bacterium, I can say that buying some ginger ale and pro-biotic yogurt will also help in the long run.

Here is the last news release from the College.

To the Marietta College community:

This evening, College officials were notified that some early test results conducted by the Marietta City Health Department are positive for a bacterium that could be caused by food or water. As of today, approximately three dozen Marietta students have been treated for gastrointestinal illness at Marietta Memorial Hospital since Thursday.

The College will continue to cooperate with the City Health Department and Marietta Memorial to help pinpoint the origins of the illness. The test samples will be forwarded to the state health department on Monday for further testing.

As a precautionary measure, Izzy’s, Chlapaty Café and Gilman Express will remain closed indefinitely. Gilman Dining Hall will continue normal hours throughout the week. Hours of operation are as follows:

Breakfast: 7-10 a.m., Monday-Friday
Continental Breakfast: 10-11 a.m., Monday-Friday
Lunch: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Friday
Continental Lunch: 2-3 p.m., Monday-Friday
Continental Dinner: 3-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday
Dinner: 5-8 p.m., Monday-Thursday
Dinner: 5-7 p.m., Friday

In an effort to reduce the spread of illness, Dining Services will hand all food to students at Gilman, and eliminate any self-service stations.
College officials want to encourage all students to frequently wash their hands to prevent the spread of any illness transmitted from person-to-person. The staff at Gilman are continuing to disinfect the dining area, and Physical Plant staff are disinfecting highly frequented common areas to help reduce the spread of illness.

If you are presenting any symptoms, please contact your Resident Director, or report to the Office of Student Life or the Campus Health Center. If you need emergency assistance we encourage you to go to Marietta Memorial Hospital.

We will update the campus community when additional information is available.

~ Tom Perry, Director of College Relations