50 ill after norovirus outbreak at Orange County's Chapman University

A photo of Chapman University on April 28, 2013.
A photo of Chapman University on April 28, 2013.
Mark Weston/Flickr Creative Commons

Orange County's Chapman University have been sickened by an apparent outbreak of the gastrointestinal illness norovirus, according to the school, and 50 students have reported symptoms of the disease.

“I’ve been here for 12 years and we’ve never had anything like this before,” university spokeswoman Mary Platt told KPCC.

Platt said the first cases were reported Dec. 2, with some students reporting symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The outbreak peaked over the weekend and the number of reported cases has since dropped off. 

“Hopefully everyone’s on the road to recovery and we will be over this very soon,” Platt said.

Officials say the outbreak is not believed to be foodborne, because several sickened students live off-campus and do not use university dining facilities. But Platt said they’re still not 100 percent sure of the source.

“It’s very hard to tell, because the virus can live for so long on surfaces,” said Platt. “That’s really up to the Orange County Health Care Agency to determine. They are investigating potential origins of this. We just don’t know."

High-traffic areas at the school like the dining facility and restrooms have been disinfected. Students are being urged to wash their hands frequently and carry hand disinfectant. 

Platt says norovirus is highly contagious, can be spread by touch and lives on surfaces. An infected person can spread the virus before showing any symptoms. Most people recover within three days.

This story has been updated.