On Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, Colgate University notified the Madison County Public Health Department of at least 15 students with symptoms of gastrointestinal illness consistent with norovirus infection. Two of the initial 15 students have tested positive for norovirus. An additional 54 suspected cases are under investigation, including students and others living or working in Hamilton.

The majority of suspect cases are associated with attendance at different social events held on and off campus. The first confirmed case attended a fundraising event at the Colgate Inn Feb. 22, 2024, and symptoms began after. The investigation identified other student social gatherings in the town of Hamilton that may have contributed to the spread of illness. Public Health continues to monitor the situation and gather new information.

Colgate is working with the Health Department to identify cases, investigate, interview, provide education and enhance cleaning to slow the spread of illness.

Noroviruses are the most common cause of the stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus is highly contagious. Due to the infectious nature of norovirus, more confirmed cases are expected as the investigation continues.

Gastrointestinal illness reports in Madison County from schools and hospital emergency rooms remained elevated this month. The Centers for Disease Control this week communicated that norovirus outbreaks are impacting communities nationwide. Outbreaks are more commonly identified in settings where a large number of people gathered, such as college campuses, restaurants, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, daycare centers and cruise ships.

To lower your risk of getting or spreading norovirus infection, Madison County Public Health recommends people:

  • Stay home if you are sick. To keep norovirus to yourself, do not attend school, work, social functions or activities until 48 hours after your symptoms have ended.
  • Practice good handwashing. Thoroughly rub hands together with soap and water for 20 seconds after using the bathroom, sneezing or coughing, or having contact with soiled surfaces or items. Note that hand-sanitizers are not usually effective against norovirus.
  • Practice safe food-handling as norovirus can spread through contaminated food or water. Wash fruits and vegetables and cook shellfish thoroughly before eating.
  • Do not prepare or serve food or care for others when you are sick with norovirus or any diarrheal illness for at least 48 hours after symptoms have ended.
  • Do not share dining items, such as utensils and cups.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces or objects with a bleach solution several times daily. To make a bleach solution daily, use three-quarters cup concentrated bleach (or one cup of full strength bleach) to one gallon of water. To disinfect, leave the surface wet with the bleach solution for at least five minutes, then rinse thoroughly with clean water.

During the past two weeks, if you experienced vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea within 12 to 48 hours and attended an event in the town of Hamilton or had close contact with someone with the same symptoms in the town of Hamilton, you may self-report your illness to Madison County Public Health at healthymadisoncounty.org.

For more information, call Madison County Public Health at 315.366.2361 or visit cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html.

By martha

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