Mystery Stomach Bug Hits Ursinus College Campus, Doors Close After Nearly 200 Students Get Sick

The doors of Pennsylvania’s Ursinus College have closed temporarily after a mystery stomach bug caused a massive wave of illness. Nearly 200 students experienced gastrointestinal problems appearing to stem from the college dining hall.

The common conception is that school cafeterias don’t usually serve the best food, but it rarely gets this bad. The dining hall at this Pennsylvania college ended up being like a worst case scenario episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. It is unknown exactly what the cause of the problem is, but the one thing that all of the affected students had in common is that they all ate food prepared in the cafeteria.

Many things can contribute to stomach problems in a food service facility. Meat might not be refrigerated or cooked properly. Vegetables and fruits may have begun to rot before being prepared for dishes. Bread and other bakery products may have gotten moldy and the staff ignored it. A cook may have come down with a virus and not worn a mask or washed their hands. The exact cause of the mystery stomach bug which hit Ursinus College on Tuesday has not yet been determined, says New York Daily News.

Classes continued as scheduled until Thursday morning, but due to failing attendance related to the spreading virus, those were the last classes held that week.

The staff has taken precautions, scrubbing the building down to eliminate all contaminants since nearly 200 students reported to be stricken with vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. While the facility has since been cleaned and officials from Montgomery County Health Department reopened the doors, classes have been canceled until Monday.

USA Today states that at least 22 of the students affected have sought medical treatment at hospitals and urgent care centers. The Health Department says it’s common at this time of year for stomach viruses to hit, most likely due to the frigid temperatures of Winter Storm Jonas and other arctic weather patterns in Northern states. Recent alerts point to the possibility of a chill hitting the South over the weekend.

“It is common at this time of year for gastrointestinal illnesses (GI), such as Norovirus, more commonly known as the stomach bug, to be circulating in the community, particularly in institutions like colleges and long-term care facilities where people are living in close quarters.”

This mystery stomach bug is apparently a rare case, though. No deaths have been reported. The Morning Call reports at least 192 students have fallen ill because of the mystery stomach bug.

Assistant Dean of Students Missy Bryant told the local news, “Our fitness center just reopened for student use after being sanitized, and now we are continuing all of the efforts in the residence halls, particularly high-traffic areas and common rooms, lounges, that kind of thing.”

Local restaurants are also chipping in their share of good will, donating food until the dining hall’s own food issues are investigated. Wawa, Wegman’s, and the Collegeville Italian Bakery are among the eateries contributing to helping students with healthy meals in the meantime.

You can help prevent the occurrence of the mystery stomach bug in your home by simply keeping the kitchen clean and maintaining a healthy storage environment for your foods. Wash your hands and avoid coughing on food if you are ill.

It is unknown if these factors were involved in the Ursinus mystery stomach bug outbreak, but the school and Health Department are looking into preventing similar outbreaks from happening again.

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