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Flu outbreak spreads

BY ASHLEY DINGES
Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 6, 2004

The University’s Occupational Safety and Environmental
Health department confirmed yesterday that a total of 43 students
have now contracted the contagious viral gastroenteritis, also
known as the stomach flu, in Mary Markley Residence Hall during the
past four or five days, said Alan Levy, Director of Housing Public
Affairs.

Laura Wong
Hallways are quarantined because of an outbreak of the flu virus has occurred at Markley Hall. (RYAN WEINER/Daily)
Laura Wong
A mask lies on the landing on the 5th floor at Markley Hall. (JEFF LEHNERT/Daily)
Laura Wong
Engineering freshman Tom Cho washes his hands at temporary hand-washing stations in front of the cafeteria at Mary Markley Residence Hall yesterday. (JEFF LEHNERT/Daily)

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The virus, which as of Tuesday was confined to the fourth floor
of Reeves house in Markley, now appears to have moved to other
areas of the building.

“There are some students who are sick who were not on the
floor. There does not appear to be a pattern yet,” Levy
said.

Other floors housing infected students include third Reeves, a
women’s hall, and first Reeves, a men’s hall.

But Levy pointed out that not all 43 students were sick today
— the estimate also includes students who were sick earlier
this week, but only recently notified authorities of their
illness.

The entire first and fourth floors of Markley were quarantined
as of early this morning.

Signs were posted near fourth Reeves warning non-hall residents
to avoid the floor, because of the contagious nature of the virus.
Instructions for proper hand washing have also been posted in all
Markley bathrooms.

The University set up waterless hand-washing stations in the
Markley dining hall yesterday with sanitary handwashes and
towelettes. The stations have also been setup throughout the hall
in locations such as the front desk and lounges. So far, Markley is
the only residence hall with such stations.

“We are working to get the sick students individual
containers of this liquid so they wouldn’t have to leave
their rooms to wash their hands,” Levy said.

Students who contracted the virus earlier in the week, such as
LSA freshman and fourth floor Reeves resident Will Hathaway, said
they are beginning to feel better. They are still taking
precautions to avoid another bout with the illness.

“It felt like little animals were nibbling away at my
stomach,” Hathaway said.

Although most of fourth Reeves fell ill, there is still a small
number of residents who have not caught it, like LSA freshman Matt
Eliaser.

“I’m one of the only ones left standing. I figure if
I get it, I get it,” Eliaser said yesterday afternoon.

He added that resident advisers in his hallway gave out surgical
masks for residents to wear to avoid catching germs from their
neighbors, but the virus still appears to be spreading.

“My roommate just got sick too, about 10 minutes
ago,” Eliaser said.

LSA freshman Eston Bond chose to return to his parents’
home, as did some other fourth Reeves residents.

“I honestly just felt awful. I felt like someone shot
holes through my stomach. When I got in the hospital (Tuesday)
night I was in really bad shape,” Bond said.

He said he notified his RA after almost passing out in his
hallway en route to the bathroom.

“I started walking down the hallway, and I got tunnel
vision,” Bond said.

His RA notified the Department of Public Safety, which called an
ambulance to transport Bond to the emergency room, where he was
given four bags of intravenous fluid to combat dehydration. Upon
arrival at the hospital, he was also given aspirin for a 104-degree
fever.

DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown suggests that students follow the
same precautions as Bond and return to their homes if possible.

“If students who are sick have parents or family members
within driving distance who can pick them up and take them home,
that is the ideal situation. It is more comfortable for the sick
person to be at home than in a small dorm room by themselves, and
we might be able to reduce the spread of this,” Brown
said.

An e-mail was sent to Markley residents late Wednesday night by
University housing with resources for sick students fighting the
virus, as well as tips for students who have not yet contracted the
illness.

“Amazingly, people seem to have read it, because some
students who were sick have actually called Dean of Students Office
to contact faculty about missed exams. Sick people are also
starting to call dining services to have meals delivered to
them,” Levy said.

He also reminded students that certain services are covered by
University Health Service, while others are not, and stressed the
importance of students knowing their health insurance
information.

“If you go anywhere else, like the University of Michigan
medical center, it is not covered for registered students.
It’s either going to be covered by your personal health
insurance or you will be billed personally for an emergency room
visit or treatment outside of UHS. That also includes ambulance
transport,” Levy said.

OSEH is analyzing specimens and samples from students and
sending them to state laboratories for further investigation. OSEH
is also interviewing students for more information about the
sickness, such as symptoms, places visited and food eaten during
the period of infection.

“We’re very fortunate at the University to have a
staff like OSEH. Most universities have some components of what our
OSEH staff provides, but many are not as developed as ours,”
Brown said.

Levy and Brown said it takes at least a week for the test
results to come back. Afterward, OSEH will be able to draw more
specific conclusions about the virus.

At this point, Brown said that OSEH still does not believe this
incident was food-borne, because it was isolated to one area of the
residence hall.