Stomach virus sickens 200 USC students

About 200 students have now caught a nasty stomach virus that broke out at the University of Southern California over the weekend. Yesterday, Campus officials told reporters what they know about the virus and how they're working to contain it. KPCC's Brian Watt has the story.

Brian Watt: Student after student started showing up at the campus health clinic late Friday complaining of nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Senior Danielle Robbins heard about it the next morning.

Danielle Robbins: One of my friends wasn't feeling well, and she's like "oh, I think I have that virus" and I was like, "wait, what virus?" And so then I checked my USC e-mail, and they sent out an e-mail to all the students.

Watt: The email, from campus administrators, told students the virus was highly contagious. It ordered those who were sick, or recently in contact with someone sick, not to socialize, to stay home, and take care of themselves with plenty of fluids. Oh, and by all means, don't show up at Saturday night's USC-Oregon game: stay in and watch it on TV.

About 130 students fell ill in the first 24 hours. By the next day, the number of new cases dropped by half. Campus staff also investigated a report that the virus started with some bad cafeteria food, a report USC spokesman James Grant said turned out to be wrong.

James Grant: We've worked with the County Department of Public Health, which did a full inspection of the facilities, and there is no connection to food.

Watt: This virus spreads by human contact, said Grant. It's likely a norovirus, like the kind that strikes cruise ships and the one that's sickened more than 200 people at Georgetown University since last week. The virus could come from sharing food or drink, but also sharing a computer mouse.

All but a handful of the sick Trojans live in campus dorms. Most people shake off the virus after a day or two. To keep it from spreading, campus officials are reminding students and staff to keep their hands clean, while cleaning crews work hard to keep campus restrooms clean. USC is also providing bottles of sanitizing gel and packets of wipes in the thousands.

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