Preventive measures taken after virus sickens 52 students

Stanford's infectious disease protocols were enacted in the Florence Moore (FloMo) residential complex this week when students first reported being sickened by an outbreak of possible norovirus.

A total of 52 students became ill between Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, Oct. 29 and 30, and all were recovering within 24 hours, according to Ira Friedman, director of the Vaden Health Center, the student health facility. Stanford is coordinating with the Santa Clara County Health Department and Environmental Health officials to investigate the source of the outbreak.

All of the ill students reported stomach flu symptoms, including vomiting and a limited number with diarrhea. Four students who became dehydrated as a result of the illness were treated and released from Stanford Hospital and have recovered. No new illnesses were reported Thursday, Oct. 31. Campus health officers are still vigilantly monitoring the situation.

"Because the students all became ill quickly, and in the same vicinity, we believe the pattern is consistent with norovirus," Friedman said. "All of the students are now recovering and returning to their normal activities."

While the source of the virus may not be known for some time, as a precaution the FloMo dining hall, which is normally closed Friday and Saturday, will undergo a complete sanitizing. Intensive cleaning is also being conducted of all common areas and bathrooms in the complex on an enhanced basis.

Although a student may have recovered, norovirus can spread for more than 72 hours after the initial infection. As a result, student residents of the complex are being advised to be vigilant about hygiene and to limit person-to-person contact even after they feel better. The complex houses 453 undergraduates in seven residences.

County health officers will be surveying both healthy and ill students within the complex to try to determine the source of the outbreak. They will review all of the students' residence hall and dining activities since Sunday, Oct. 27, to try to isolate a pattern. The investigation is expected to take several days to complete. An initial review of food handlers in the FloMo dining hall found that no employees were a source of the illness. Preliminary information also does not indicate that the disease spread through a common food source.

Norovirus is a highly contagious illness that can be easily spread from infected individuals, either through feces on unclean hands or through the air near vomit. A door handle or common serving utensil, or food touched by an infected person, can serve as a transmission source. The virus is known to spread quickly in areas where large groups of people are living in close proximity, such as on cruise ships, in hospitals, nursing homes or residence halls.

Stanford's Infection Control Working Group is reviewing the situation and working with county officials to assure that disease prevention protocols will continue to be followed in the coming days. When the first signs of illness were reported late Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning, the protocols were enacted.

Lisa Lapin, University Communications: (650) 725-8396,