Norovirus is back, Pitzer says

23 students at Pitzer College experienced norovirus symptoms in the past two weeks. (Regan Rudman • The Student Life)

As students returned to campus earlier this semester, so did another bout of stomach ailments, this time affecting students at Pitzer College. 

At least 23 students have experienced symptoms of what the college and public health officials believe to be norovirus, representing about 2.5 percent of the campus residential population, according to a Thursday community update from Pitzer Chief Operating Officer Laura Troendle.

Norovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus that induces vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and general stomach pain. The virus typically lasts a day or two and “can spread quickly in places with a significant number of people living and eating together,” according to Vasquez.

She added that the residential living system at Pitzer might play a role in the recent outbreak, especially “in places with a significant number of people living and eating together.” Pomona College seemed to experience a similar outbreak at the end of the fall semester.

Based on Los Angeles County Department of Public Health standards, 14 cases are considered an outbreak, Vasquez said. Accordingly, Pitzer is working with Student Health Services and LACDPH to investigate.

The LACDPH case manager indicated that it is “highly unlikely” that the cause of the recent spate of illnesses “is a food or water related illness,” but “highly likely that it is the norovirus.”

Bon Appetit, who serves as Pitzer’s dining provider, has no “outstanding violations” and retained its “A” rating after initial inspection, according to Thursday’s email.  

Still, Pitzer is heightening its cleaning practices in high traffic areas, including in bathrooms and McConnell Dining Hall. 

Student Health Services and the Pitzer administration advised students to take more precautions in light of the outbreak. 

Vasquez recommended that students who feel ill should test to ensure they are not positive for COVID-19. In the meantime, they should also follow Center of Disease Control recommendations, which includes avoiding food preparation, sanitizing contaminated surfaces and making sure to maintain proper hygiene practices.

If students do fall ill, they should reduce contact with other students, drink clear liquids, limit their intake of solid food and seek medical assistance if symptoms persist, Vasquez said. The college is providing infected students with a care package that includes soup, crackers and electrolyte drinks.

SHS encouraged students exhibiting symptoms of norovirus to avoid exposure to other students and stay home until they are no longer symptomatic. 

Stephanie Hannant, assistant dean of mental health and well-being at Pitzer, offered resources to affected students, including personal or academic support and mental health referrals.

“We appreciate impacted students who have reached out to us so that we can best support our community through this,” Vasquez said earlier.

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