Ursinus College Stomach Bug Update: Classes Set To Resume After Illness Hits 200

The Ursinus College stomach bug is making national headlines as the week begins. The college, located in Pennsylvania, was forced to cancel classes last week as an illness swept the college campus. At least 200 students reported symptoms, which included vomiting and diarrhea. This outbreak forced the college to shut down its dining facilities last Wednesday. The college is located in Collegeville approximately 25 miles from Philadelphia.

According to WFMZ, school officials re-opened one of the dining halls on Thursday, but many of the students that live on campus decided to eat elsewhere. One local restaurant, the Collegeville Diner, has seen an increase in their business since the food poisoning outbreak began.

Alex Elwahi, a manager at the establishment said, “We had a lot of people here yesterday for dinner from Ursinus College and today we had a bunch of people for lunch.”

According to the Reading Eagle, the health department was brought in to investigate the illness, and they found at least 12 health code violations. Montgomery County Department of Health released their report on the situation at the college, and it detailed those health code violations. A follow up visit made by the health department the following day showed no violations, according to WFMZ.

An exact cause for this illness outbreak has not yet been revealed. The exact cause should be released later this week due to the fact that results from the testing of the ill students could take up to a week. A report from the Examiner shared the violations found by the health department during their visit last week.

  • ” Employee drinking on the cooks line while working with an open cup. Stop immd. Explained proper eating and drinking procedures to the manager.
  • Employee handling the trash can, then preparing foods. Stop immd. Explained proper hand washing methods to the manger. Pan was replaced.
  • Employee rubbing eyes, then handling the cutting boards without washing hands. Stop immd. Explained proper procedures to the manager.
  • Slicer not clean, Clean and sanitize before next use.
  • Table top can opener not clean. Clean and sanitize before the next use.
  • Cutting boards on bain marie with dark groves and staining.
  • Food prep sink not clean at the time of the inspection. Clean and sanitize sink before next use.
  • Facility appears to have opened and unprotected pesticides under the front counter and behind several reach-in cooler units.”

On their blog, college officials from Ursinus College revealed that they received less than 10 reports of illness over the weekend. However, they are still taking care of those students impacted by this outbreak.

The college is ready to resume classes on Monday. Their latest communication revealed, “Most events this week will be held as scheduled, but check the Ursinus website for updated information. This is particularly true for athletics, as games and meets may have been rescheduled, and note that the popular Job, Internship and Networking Fair has been postponed until March 2.”

Even with the all clear going out, some students do plan to eat off campus for the time being. On Friday, Katie Faust, a student at the college said, “I think they’re doing a fantastic job [the college], and it’s not against the school or anything, but just to be safe, I really don’t want to get sick. I’m going to order Chinese food or something.”

Brock Blomberg, the president of the college, released his own statement about the illness. According to Philly.com, he said, “I believe the measures we’ve taken will help to reduce the possibility of further illnesses. It is times like these that we see who we really are.”

Blomberg also took a moment to thank some of the local businesses that helped feed the students that lived on campus while the dining halls on campus were shut down. Those business include, “Wawa, Wegmans, the Collegeville Italian Bakery, The Pizza Stop, Rocco’s, Franco’s Pizza Family Restaurant and Marzella’s Pizzeria.”

Through the end of the month, students from Ursinus College can use services from Jefferson University Hospital for free. This includes their app and video visits.

Food poisoning outbreaks have been making big news in recent months. The most well-known incident in recent years involved Chipotle. According to Parent Herald, the restaurant chain dealt with norovirus, salmonella, and E.coli outbreaks in some branches.

The outbreaks caused people to think twice before stopping to eat at the restaurant chain, but Chipotle is trying to win their customers back with a free food offer. The restaurant chain closed locations across the country for one afternoon recently in order to teach their employees about safe food handling procedures. The outbreak received national attention last summer, and now the restaurant chain is struggling to bounce back.

“The restaurant chain is now in a tough time trying to reboot itself. By Feb. 8 they will close nearly 2,000 North American restaurants to discuss and focus on food safety among employees and for evaluation. The chain also plans for an expansive marketing campaign by mid-February to attract more customers back to its stores. They hope that this campaign, which includes direct mail and traditional ads, will help clear the mishaps.”

It is not known yet if customers will return to the restaurant chain. In the case of Ursinus College, students will likely return to the dining halls on campus, especially those students that cannot afford to continue eating off campus.

Food borne illnesses are common though. Tree Hugger shared numbers from the CDC. Those numbers stated that, “each year around one in six Americans (48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of food-borne diseases.”

It is important to take care in your own kitchen as well. The officials at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania will keep an eye on things in the kitchens on their campus for the foreseeable future.

[Photo via Rob266/Wikimedia Commons]