The number of Norovirus patients at the University of Regina has risn to 64 and the closure of the gym has been extended to one week. However, Kim McKechney, the director of communications and marketing, said he is "optimistic" the outbreak is under control.
“It’s actually a fairly common virus for most people,” said McKechney. “They recover without any special treatment; usually they don’t even have to go see the doctor.”
The symptoms of Norovirus outbreak, according to John Stavrinides, an assistant professor in biology at the U of R, include vomiting, diarrhea, general stomach upsets and fever. In some cases, Stavrinides said, the biggest concern to human health is dehydration.
McKechney confirmed there are 64 cases on campus and more to be investigated.
“All of those cases so far appear to be from the same exposure period: late last week. So we are optimistic because we’re not seeing cases that are originating from later than that time period,” said McKechney. “In other words, we are getting more cases, because people are more aware that this is an issue and they reported.”
The cause of the outbreak within the certain exposure period, however, remains unknown.
“We’re still working with the public health division of Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (to) determine the cause definitively,” said McKechney. “They are narrowing what they think might have caused the increase in Norovirus cases here on campus, but that hasn’t been definitively determined yet.”
According to McKechney, precautions will and are still being made. The Fitness and Lifestyle Centre (the gym) won’t be open until this Friday.
“As I understand it, it is really a difficult virus to eliminate,” said McKechney. “If we didn’t feel like we could clean that surface well enough for people to use them, then we would keep it closed.”
Some students said the closing of the gym had been an inconvenience.
“I’m disappointed by the gym (being closed),” said Richard Dosselmann, a student who goes to the gym four times a week. “I hope we can resolve this as fast as possible.”
McKechney said hopefully the university will return to more normal operation by the weekend. “We have a daily conference call with the public health division of Regina Qu’Appelle Health authority that occurs later this morning, we will discuss with them about anything we need to do to change our operations to ensure the risk is mitigated," he said.
"Subsequently when this all clears we’ll have conversations about public health about whether there’s any practices we need to change on our permanent basis. And those discussions are sort of already started, and they will continue to see how we can make sure we learn from this experience."
"We don’t want to rush this,” he said.
Stavrinides said people should pay “very close attention” because Norovirus can persist on any surfaces.
“At this point, because we know people are infected, I don’t want to take basically any risk. So more cleaning, more disinfection, (that’s) definitely a good thing,” said Stavrinides.
McKechney said more cleaning is exactly what U of R is doing.
“We are currently doing extra cleaning by disinfecting all the high contact surfaces with accelerated hydrogen peroxide,” McKechney said. “(The gym) has a lot of high contact surfaces. In other words, people use gym equipment and they leave, and there’s a lot of use through out the day, and it has some very specialized cleaning needs.”
“It’s for your safety and wellness,” he said.
Stavrinides suggested students to wash their hands frequently to avoid being sick. He also suggested those who already got sick to keep hydrated and to stay at home: “It’s great to have (a) rest when you are feeling ill. Your body needs time to recharge (and) your body’s fighting off infection. So staying home is, number one, a great way to ensure your are giving your body enough time to recover,” he advised.
“Number two, staying away actually minimizes the way you’re spreading the virus,” said Stavrinides, “Because, you know, you are constantly expelling fluids from your body. You are shedding huge amount of virus. ”
McKechney said sick students could stay at home without worrying about their exams: “We’ve had a couple of cases to work with the professors to make sure that that person (who got sick) can have alternate accommodations to write that exam. So in other words, their exam would probably be delayed until that person is able to attend class.”