The norovirus has been popping up throughout Minnesota this winter, putting many people, including students, at risk of illness.
The norovirus is a stomach bug (sometimes referred to as the stomach flu) that causes intense vomiting and diarrhea. Cases of this gastrointestinal virus have been known to put some people out of commission for as many as three days.
Madonna McDermott, director of health services and the Wellness Center, said once the virus is contracted, there’s nothing to do but get lots of rest, stay out of class and stay hydrated. She said prevention is key, as the sickness can be spread by touch, through the air and through food and water.
McDermott said the current number of norovirus cases at St. Thomas is no more than normal, and that it is not a major concern for the university. However, due to the ease of transmission of the virus, students are advised to be aware of the disease.
McDermott said there are some things to do to combat the virus if infected.
“You’re going to want to not eat anything that will upset the stomach,” McDermott said. “Stay hydrated. If you can’t drink water, you’ll want to chew ice cubes.”
She also suggested patients avoid dairy as it could worsen diarrhea and vomiting.
According to McDermott, the best thing to do to stay healthy and virus-free is to wash your hands. Though hand sanitizer can help, McDermott said the friction from soap and water will be the most effective in preventing sickness.
Freshman Parker Hewes agrees with McDermott, but also said students need to get help when it’s needed.
“People should take the initiative and take care of themselves,” Hewes said. “Weaken it (the virus) as much a possible and … get the doctors help, take some health services.”
Some people can mistake a stomach bug for the flu, but the influenza virus is a respiratory disease which affects the lungs and can cause trouble breathing. The flu will often cause a cough and cold-like symptoms, which are not present during a norovirus infection.
Sophomore Alexandra Olson said she will be more aware of the food she eats.
“If something is spoiled or something I’m not going to try and eat it because I don’t want to get sick from that,” Olson said. “Just trying to eat healthy always helps..”
Law student Sean Phelan said it wouldn’t take a lot for St. Thomas students to be more cautious about getting sick.
“Wouldn’t hurt to be a little extra cautious about washing your hands and what you eat, where it was and who’s been touching it,” Phelan said. “It’s just common sense, things you kind of have to think about more.”