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Norovirus Sickens More Than 200 at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania [Updated]

The college totally shut down last week.

Flickr/Montgomery County Planning Commission

More than 200 students, faculty members, and staff at Ursinus College have become ill due to an outbreak of Norovirus. The first reports of illness occurred last Tuesday, and the Pennsylvania school announced earlier Monday Norovirus was, in fact, the culprit. The outbreak is being connected to Ursinus's on-campus cafeteria.

A Montgomery County Health Department investigation found a number of violations at the dining hall, reports Buzz Feed, including dead bugs, pesticides near food, unclean surfaces, and improper hand-washing practices. Ursinus shut down the dining hall to allow for further investigation into the outbreak and so the facilities could be cleaned and sanitized. The school followed up by canceling Thursday and Friday classes last week.

Classes resumed as scheduled Monday morning, and Julie Paoline, division director of Communicable Disease Control Montgomery County Health Department, said Ursinus was on the road to recovery.

"At this time, the Health Department believes that Ursinus College administration and its staff have done everything they can do in terms of focusing on monitoring illness, promoting hand hygiene, conducting environmental disinfection, and excluding ill food workers," Paoline said in a press release. "There are no additional recommendations from the department at this time. This will need to run its course."

Norovirus is the most common cause of foodborne illness in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control, affecting 19 to 21 million people each year. It's caused big headaches for major food brands such as Chipotle, which dealt with outbreaks linked to locations in California and Massachusetts last year. The company is facing a criminal investigation and class action lawsuit as a result of the public health disasters.

Update: February 16, 10:45 a.m. A spokesperson for Ursinus College tells Eater the outbreak is still under investigation, and the school's cafeteria has not been confirmed as the source.

"While the [Montgomery County Health Department's] first report cited some violations, all violations have since been corrected and the health department issued its second Inspection Report for Food Establishments Saturday, revealing that Ursinus College and its Wismer Hall dining facilities are in compliance with the county and had met the department's recommendations. The college voluntarily and precautionary closed Wismer Dining Hall on Wednesday before reopening on Thursday for dinner, and since then has remained operational."

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