Following confirmation by Toronto Public Health that some 200 students in the Humber College North campus residence fell ill last week due to norovirus, the school is enhancing hygiene guidelines and spreading prevention measures to diminish the contagion.
Dean of the School of Health Sciences Jason Powell recommends students take the matter seriously and be diligent.
“Hand washing several times a day and symptoms surveillance are so important.” Powell said. “It’s obvious our awareness is hiking. Everybody is being more diligent. We get less diligent when there is no outbreak (but) this should be a permanent habit.”
Humber and Toronto Public Health have been working in coordination, providing updated student contact information and providing immediate guidance on spread prevention.
In that regard, Dr. Michael Finkelstein, Associate Medical Officer of Health, advised those affected to stay home and drink a lot of liquids.
“Once certain viruses are in environments such as student residences where individuals live close together, preventing the spread of easily transmitted seasonal viruses like norovirus becomes challenging,” Dr. Finkelstein said.
“There is no reason to avoid public spaces or not have visitors,” Powell said. “But if you don’t feel well, go home, and wash your hands every time you shake somebody’s else hands and after using the bathroom.”
Last Monday’s confirmation by the city that norovirus was involved helped settle a mystery that sent over 40 students to hospital in an incident that was initially suspected by some to be food poisoning.
Powell explained the symptoms of a regular flu are almost the same as norovirus, except for very bad abdominal cramping, violent diarrhea and vomiting.
“If you have an exam and you wake up with symptoms, I know there is pressure, but not coming is the right thing to do. We will help you. They (students) won’t be punished (academically),” said Powell.
There are no official reports on symptoms appearing outside North campus. However, Jia Xla, a Humber Hospitality and Tourism management student, says some students at Lakeshore campus are fearing for their safety as well.
“School is a public space and a lot of students from North come here,” Xla said. “I’m an International student and It’s hard for me if I miss classes. I try to avoid the school’s food and rather prepare something at home.”
“First, I thought it was okay and no big deal but when the number of students sick started rising, I became more cautious,” said Hashem Shafi, Humber paralegal student. “I only have one class a week so I’m hoping I can make it in and out of there without getting sick.”
Norovirus is short lived, and affected students who experience 48 hours symptom-free are welcome to return to class.