Students laid low as stomach virus hits university campus

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014

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Students have been confined to "special areas" of university halls of residence as a serious case of vomiting and diarrhoea sweeps through Hamilton.

Waikato District Health Board medical officer of health Anita Bell was at the Waikato University campus to provide assistance yesterday and said it was "most likely caused by a virus such as norovirus".

"We are seeing an increase of cases throughout the region," said Dr Bell. "If you're feeling unwell, keep up your fluids and stay at home. For the majority of cases, this is a 24-hour bug." Waikato Student Union president Aaron Letcher was briefed yesterday and said population health staff had been on campus to offer assistance.

"Essentially, what's happening is there is a virus going around with vomiting and diarrhoea," he said.

Incidences of the outbreak were "confined to a pretty small space" on university grounds but some infected students also lived off campus.

"When a virus strikes it tends to spread quite quickly and that's particularly true in the halls of residence type situations where people are living in close proximity to each other."

He said it was "not uncommon" for a virus to affect the university community, and with a population of about 10,000 the confirmed numbers were a "drop in the bucket".

"All we can do is put the information out there, try to mitigate some of the risks through cleaning, quarantines and let the virus run its course."

St Joan's Hamilton rest home confirmed six cases of stomach virus, but managing director of Radius Care Brian Cree said there was no norovirus.

"There are currently six people there who are unwell, it's not confirmed as norovirus," he said.

Residents who were ill over the weekend "have come right" and while those who were sick had been isolated and there was no lock-down.

"We're just following normal infection control processes until we sort out what the story is just in case it is norovirus."

Waikato DHB communications director Mary Anne Gill said cases of stomach virus presented to the hospital emergency department on Wednesday night but they were treated and sent home.

"We can't say whether it is norovirus yet because you've got to do testing for it and you can't test for it and get the results straight away."

For further information on acute viral gastroenteritis, a common cause of vomiting and diarrhoea, visit waikatodhb.health.nz/norovirus

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- Waikato Times

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