Protect yourself against stomach virus

A number of students have recently experienced gastroenteritis, which can be caused by the highly contagious norovirus. In an email Dec. 6 to the Rice community, Jerusha Kasch shared the following information to help prevent the spread of this illness. Kasch is director of Institutional Crisis Management.

Picture of two lathered hands rubbing together

Thorough hand-washing can help prevent the spread of norovirus.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines that can lead to diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Symptoms usually develop 12 to 48 hours after a person is exposed to norovirus. Most people with this illness get better within one to three days. Antibiotics cannot cure it because they don’t work on viruses. People with gastroenteritis should drink lots of liquids to replace fluid loss to avoid dehydration.

Students who are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting should stay in their rooms and avoid going to food serveries, classrooms, labs and other public areas so that they don’t contaminate others. They should contact the senior operations manager for their servery to make arrangements for meals to be delivered so that sick students don’t spread germs in public dining areas.

Everyone should wash their hands often to avoid spreading norovirus, especially before eating or preparing food, after going to the bathroom, after touching door handles, elevator buttons and other common objects, and after being around someone who is sick. The goal is to prevent the spread of germs, and it can’t be achieved if hands are held under the faucet for just a few seconds. The proper procedure is to wet both hands with running water (warm or cold), apply soap, rub the hands together for at least 20 seconds to make a lather, scrub the front and back sides — including between fingers and under nails — and rinse under running water. Hands should be dried with a clean towel or air-dried.

Frequently touched objects should be cleaned and sanitized regularly with a chlorine-based product or other sanitizer. Norovirus can stay on objects and surfaces and continue to infect people for days or weeks.

Students who have concerns about their health or need additional care should contact Student Health Service. Located in the Rich Health and Wellness Center next to the Brown Magister’s House near Entrance 27B on Sunset Boulevard, Student Health Service is No. 30 on the campus map and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To make an appointment, students can call 713-348-4966. If the office is closed, consult and click on “After Hours/ER” near the top of the page. In case of an emergency, call Rice EMS at 713-348-6000.

For more information about norovirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.




About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.