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College Officials Still Don't Know What Has Sickened 174 Students

FEB 12, 2016 | CAITLYN FITZPATRICK
In just about 24 hours, the number of students at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania experiencing an unidentified stomach illness has increased from 40 to 174.

It all began on the evening of February 9 when multiple students came down with a stomach infection. They experienced symptoms such as prolonged vomiting and some of them sought medical attention at the hospital or urgent cares.

Officials at Ursinus have been investigating the illness alongside the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD). The dining hall was closed so that the area could be thoroughly cleaned.

To date, it’s still not clear whether the infection is food-borne or transmitted by person-to-person contact. It’s routine to test patients for both bacteria and viruses, but results could take up to a week.

“We will continue to work closely with officials from the Department of Health and follow their recommendations. In addition, Ursinus couldn’t be more grateful for the outpouring of support it has received from the surrounding community to help us support our students,” President Brock Blomberg said in a statement.

A total of 174 students have experienced symptoms of the stomach illness, as of noon on February 11. Out of the 1,681 undergraduates at Ursinus, 96% live on campus or college-operated housing. Officials advise that students use the hot wash and dry cycle when doing laundry and wash their hands after touching soiled clothing.

“I encourage any students or staff experiencing symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain to be particularly careful about dehydration and to seek medical care,” advised Valerie Arkoosh, MD, MPH, interim medical director at the MCHD.
 
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