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'It spreads so easily. You just never know' | Norovirus cases bring concern around Georgetown campus

On Saturday, students who spoke to WUSA 9 said they were taking special precautions to avoid possibly getting sick with the highly contagious illness.

WASHINGTON — Cleaning crews at Georgetown University continued to disinfect and sanitize common spaces and rooms of sick students on Saturday as the campus dealt with a possible outbreak of norovirus.

The university alerted the school community this week that more than 90 students have reported symptoms consistent with the virus, including around a dozen who were taken to local emergency departments.

According to the university, a few of the sick students received IV rehydration. None of the cases required hospitalization.

Norovirus is a highly contagious illness and can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says norovirus can spread by eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with the virus, by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and then putting your fingers in your mouth, or by having direct contact with someone sick with the illness.

To help prevent the spread of norovirus, the CDC advises washing your hands, cleaning and disinfecting shared surfaces, and washing used laundry. 

On Saturday, Georgetown officials said at least 46 student rooms had been deep cleaned and sanitized. Crews planned to continue cleaning other rooms of sick students and common areas inside residential facilities during the day. 

The school also reported that hours for quarantine meal delivery would be extended to 8:00 pm to help students sickened by norovirus.

On Saturday, Georgetown students told WUSA 9 that the spread of the disease brought plenty of concerns and led to them taking precautions.

"We’re being extra cautious," said Gaby Diaz, a senior at the school. "I carry around my hand sanitizer with me and I try to keep my distance from people because you just don’t know.”

Others spoke about contagious norovirus is, which led to them staying away from areas like the dining hall.

"Thinking about the greater population, I don’t know who I’m going to be coming into contact with," said student Nicole Rybak. "We do our own cooking. We stay in that little bubble.” 

Both Diaz and Rybak complimented Georgetown officials for notifying students about the issue and bringing updates on the situation. 

Due to the outbreak, a health group said students were encountering delays and issues trying to see a nurse or medical team.

Varsity Care, which offers medical guidance and care for Georgetown students, said staff had seen a surge in calls over the last week.

"Things are very busy at Georgetown," said nurse Halley Ascher. "A lot of students are having trouble when they get sick with knowing what to do.”

While norovirus outbreaks can occur in places like crowded cruise ships, Ascher told WUSA 9 that a college campus provided an atmosphere that could lead to easy transmission.

"It’s a number of people living in close proximity to one another and sharing common spaces," the nurse said. 

Ascher added that students could take simple steps to stay safe and healthy, including disinfecting doorknobs and toilet seats. 

"They should disinfect armchair arms, common tables, and make sure their hands are all washed," she said. "The idea is that we have to keep vigilant in the disinfection.”

RELATED: Georgetown University experiencing Norovirus cases on campus

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