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UPDATE: Norovirus and Considerations for Thanksgiving

Dear students, parents, and families,

As you know, our Emory community has been dealing with an outbreak of Norovirus gastroenteritis since Wednesday, November 12.  To date, nearly 150 students have sought care for gastroenteritis at either Emory Student Health Services or the University Hospital Emergency Department.  We also know that other students have done self-care and not sought medical attention.  Many steps have been taken to reduce the spread of infection and additional steps are underway.  You can find these actions and recommendations delineated in previous emails here

The good news is that case numbers are declining.  Only one student with possible Norovirus was seen at Student Health on Thursday, November 20.  In addition, symptoms generally go away in 24-48 hours.  However, many students will soon be leaving campus for Thanksgiving break and staying with family and friends.  Here are some important things for students to know about Norovirus and to share with their families, particularly if they themselves have been ill:

You can still be contagious after you recover.
Although individuals with Norovirus infection are most contagious while ill and for 3 days after clinical symptoms resolve, individuals can continue to shed the virus in their stools for 1-3 weeks after recovery.  20% of infected individuals have no symptoms and look healthy, but are still shedding virus at the end of 2 weeks.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do NOT work against Norovirus.  Your best protection is frequent hand washing with soap and water.  It is important to wash your hands carefully after using the bathroom or before hand-sharing food with others.
Do not prepare food with others for a full week after being ill.
Because you may still be shedding the virus for a full week after being ill, you should not prepare food for others during that time.
Small children, the elderly and individuals with compromised immunity are most at risk from Norovirus.
If you have been ill with probable Norovirus, or you become ill while at home, you should not provide care to small children, the elderly or immune-compromised individuals for at least a full week after you recover.
Get the facts about Norovirus.
An excellent 2-page CDC fact sheet on Norovirus, including information about cleaning and disinfecting products, can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/downloads/keyfacts.pdf.

Over the Thanksgiving Break, Emory will continue to implement rigorous cleaning activities in residence halls and dining areas, including a focus on restroom facilities and common areas.  No single intervention will stop the spread of Norovirus in the Emory community.  However, we aim to control this very contagious and very resistant virus by using a combination of proven public health strategies.  As before, we continue to rely upon the counsel of our Emory experts in Infectious Diseases and Public Health and the recommendations of the DeKalb County Board of Health, which are based upon state and CDC guidelines.  We are fortunate to have such an abundance of expertise on our campus. 

We wish you a rejuvenating Thanksgiving Break and share your hope for a healthy conclusion to our Fall Semester.


Yours in health and prevention, 

Michael J. Huey, MD
Assistant Vice President and Executive Director
Emory University Student Health and Counseling Services
Associate Professor (MEST), Family and Preventive Medicine
Emory University School of Medicine

Emory Gastrointestinal Illness Confirmed as Norovirus

Dear Emory community,

As noted in Thursday night’s all-student email, we were awaiting laboratory results regarding a gastrointestinal illness that had affected many students in our Emory community.  Friday night we received confirmation from the Georgia Public Health Laboratory and Emory Medical Lab that all patient samples from the first morning of our outbreak, Wednesday, November 12, tested positive for Norovirus (6 of 6 samples at the State Lab and 2 of 2 samples at Emory Medical Lab).

Information on norovirus:  Norovirus is a highly contagious intestinal virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain and can lead to dehydration.  Norovirus is now the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the United States, with an estimated 21 million cases a year.  The most serious Norovirus cases occur in small children and the elderly.  The good news is that the most significant symptoms usually do not last longer than 48 hours.  However, individuals can still transmit the virus for several days after symptoms resolve.  An excellent 2-page CDC fact sheet on Norovirus can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/downloads/keyfacts.pdf

Update on illnesses:  On our campus, 89 students have now sought care for gastroenteritis at Student Health Services or the University Hospital Emergency Department since the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 12.  The severity of the illness has varied, and the number of new cases seen slowed Friday (we had a total of 74 cases seen by late Thursday night).  However, we do know that other students have been ill, have done self-care and have not come to Student Health Services or the University Hospital Emergency Department. 

We are still working with DeKalb County Board of Health and experts at Emory Infectious Diseases and the Rollins School of Public Health to try to identify the original source of the infection.  As noted in Thursday night’s email, all left over food served in the Dobbs Market on Tuesday, November 11 has been isolated and will now be tested for Norovirus.  We will share those results with the community when they become available.  The tests will be performed at a Norovirus research lab at the Rollins School of Public Health.  Admittedly, this testing is more challenging than testing on human specimens and may be inconclusive.

Our goal:  For individuals and for our Emory community, our goal is to stop the spread of this virus.  There is no vaccine for Norovirus, and while medications can help control symptoms, there are no drugs to treat the virus itself.  But the virus can be controlled and contained.  Our best weapons are fluids, rest and prevention.  To that end:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.  The best way to prevent the spread of Norovirus is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, 20 seconds or more each time.  Unfortunately, hand gels and foams do not work as well against Norovirus.  We must always wash our hands after using the restroom and before preparing or serving food.  This is important for all of us, since studies have shown it is possible to get a Norovirus infection and not become clinically ill.  Therefore, everyone must be vigilant.
  • If you are ill with Norovirus or other gastrointestinal illnesses and need medical attention, you should seek care either at Student Health Services or the Emory University Hospital Emergency Department.
  • If you have been ill:
    • Do not prepare or serve food to others for a full week after symptoms subside. 
    • Do not provide care for others, especially small children or the elderly, who are most vulnerable to Norovirus.
    • Do not use swimming pools for a full week after symptoms subside.
  • If surfaces are contaminated by vomit or diarrhea spillage:
    • If you live on campus and there are facilities that have become visibly contaminated, please contact your RA or the RA on-call and they will arrange for clean-up.  Please do not be alarmed to see custodians wearing regular surgical masks and gloves; we want to provide them with additional protection when they are cleaning up contaminated spills.  Please remember to say thanks when they are done.     
    • If you live off campus, clean and disinfect all surfaces contaminated by vomit or diarrhea spillage.  Use a disinfectant with chlorine bleach at a concentration of 1000-5000 ppm or 5-25 tablespoons of household bleach (5.25%) per gallon of water.  One option would be Clorox Healthcare® Bleach Germicidal Wipes (5500 ppm chlorine), and there are likely others.  If unsure, check the label. 
  • If clothes or laundry are contaminated by vomit of diarrhea spillage:
    • Immediately remove and wash thoroughly any clothing or linens contaminated by an ill person. 
    • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling contaminated laundry. 
    • Wash laundry items with detergent on the longest cycle and machine dry them.  
  • If you are not ill and are preparing or sharing food:
    • Wash all fruits and vegetables and cook all seafood thoroughly.
    • Until we have stopped this campus outbreak, avoid hand-sharing communal food.  Sorry, no popcorn bowl or nachos for football this weekend.  
  • Additional measures are being taken at Emory Dining Services.   In addition to added safety measures instituted Wednesday morning, Emory Dining Services did a round of full-sanitizing cleaning with CDC and EPA-recommended chlorine-based cleaners Saturday morning.  While most of us are not fond of the smell of chlorine, when you smell it on the Emory campus over the next few days, it is a good thing.

Please consider sharing this message with your parents, family members or significant others as appropriate or helpful.  It may also be helpful to share Thursday night’s email (November 13, 2014), which you can find below, since we will not completely repeat the information contained in that email.   

As before, we will follow with additional information as it becomes available.  Although I am an Emory team physician and I love our Eagles, right now my favorite school spirit is the spirit of prevention.  I hope yours is, too.  For additional information about Norovirus, go to: www.cdc.gov/norovirus

Yours in health,   

Michael J. Huey, MD
Assistant Vice President and Executive Director
Emory University Student Health and Counseling Services
Associate Professor (MEST), Family and Preventive Medicine
Emory University School of Medicine


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dear Emory student: 

As you may or may not be aware, since late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, Emory has had a number of students with gastrointestinal illness on campus.  The seriousness of illness has varied.  As of this morning, over 50 students have been seen and treated at Student Health Services and The Emory University Hospital Emergency Department.  Stool cultures from several ill students have been sent to the State of Georgia Laboratory and results are pending.

Emory medical staff and Campus Life administrators are evaluating the affected students, and working closely with Emory Infectious Diseases experts and the DeKalb County Board of Health to investigate the cause(s) of the illnesses.  Efforts are being made to identify clear commonalities among the students who are/were ill, including but not limited to: dining locations, food choices, activities, residence and classes.  

Gastrointestinal illnesses are caused primarily by viruses, bacteria and food-borne toxins.  At this time, the cause of our current cluster of illnesses is unclear.  However, during the investigation, additional safety measures have been put in place to preserve the health of the Emory community, and Campus Life staff are supporting affected students.

Reports of illness on a college campus always require a rapid response from Campus Dining for those who visit our facilities, which serve more than 14,000 people every day. Campus Dining has followed established public health protocols which included: 

  1. All leftover food served on Tuesday, November 11 has been isolated and retained for analysis as required by policy;
  2. DeKalb Health Department inspected the premises on Wednesday, November 12, and found no issues of concerns or infractions;
  3. Hand sanitizer stations are being positioned more prominently;
  4. The campus-wide food service safety/sanitation specialist has been placed at Dobbs Market full time; 
  5. Staff are being refreshed on the importance of sanitation practices; and 
  6. Common use customer utensils are being replaced more often than is required.

With gastrointestinal illness, the most important way to stop the spread is good hand washing and hand hygiene.  If students are ill, they should carefully wash their hands after any bathroom visit.  Students who are ill should not prepare food for or serve food to others.  It is also important to get adequate rest and good fluid hydration, both when ill and when trying not to become ill.  Students who become ill and need medical care should be seen either at Student Health Services or the Emory University Hospital Emergency Department. 

We will follow with additional information as it becomes available. 

Yours very truly,

Michael J. Huey, MD

A Statement of Continuing Commitment to Create Change and Address Social Injustice

Dear Community Members, 

At Emory, we strive to create an interdependent, inclusive, and socially just community where individuals can reach their full potential, live in a physically and psychologically safe environment, and work collaboratively to create change. As President Wagner has stated, “we must together pledge Emory University’s continuing commitment to raise awareness and prevent all forms of violence and discrimination; to foster openness and diversity of thought, experience, spirituality, and culture; and to seek positive transformation in our community and the world.”  

As recent university notifications indicate, our basic Emory community principle of respect for others is violated on too many occasions.  In response to the recent incident and other past reports of sexual assaults in fraternity houses, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) will suspend all social events in fraternity houses until a comprehensive plan is developed to ensure the safety of our community members. Many of us joined the Emory community because we aspire to seek positive transformation in our own community and the world.  I ask for your support in ending sexual violence, acts of bias, and other social injustices that are antithetical to our notion of community. 

If you experience and/or witness an act of bias involving students, please report it as outlined in Emory’s Bias Incident Reporting process. James Francois, Director of the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, and Scott Rausch, Director of the Office of Residence Life, lead the Bias Incident Response Team, a group of university administrators who will enact the response protocol.

 If you are a student or you know a student who has been affected by sexual or relationship violence, harassment, or stalking, we want you to receive the help and support you need. Free and confidential support is available to students by calling the Counseling and Psychological Services at 404.727.7450. Additional support resources can be found for yourself or others by visiting Emory’s sexual misconduct resources. We encourage students interested in working to end sexual and relationship violence to contact the Respect Program at respect@emory.edu or contact Drew Rizzo, Assistant Director of Health Promotion, at drew.rizzo@emory.edu

Some of the aforementioned protocols and procedures came to fruition as an outcome of the Campus Life Compact for Building an Inclusive Community at Emory, a set of recommendations developed by an ad hoc committee of students, faculty members, and Division of Campus Life administrators. Formed in December 2012, largely as a result of concerns expressed by students, the committee represents an initial step toward fully realizing a more inclusive, equitable, and just campus environment.

The Campus Life Compact’s contributions have included the implementation of educational programs (e.g., Creating Emory, Intersections), increased support for international students, establishment of the Emory Black Student Union, creation of an ombudsperson position, formation of a bias reporting team, and engagement with sororities and fraternities, among a variety of other actions to nurture a more just campus environment. 

The university remains firmly committed to the Campus Life Compact. In November, a standing Campus Life Compact Advisory Council, comprised of students, staff, and faculty, and alumni, will engage the community at large to ensure continued progress toward Emory’s goal of establishing a system for ongoing improvement in all areas of diversity and inclusion. We welcome those interested to join in this process. You may express your interest in the Advisory Council to Michael Shutt, Interim Senior Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, at mshutt@emory.edu.

All forms of oppression, including sexual violence and bias incidents are pernicious and persistent issues in our society and in our global community.  The responses by the overwhelming majority of students, staff, faculty, parents, and alumni throughout the Emory community, who condemn sexual violence and bias at every turn, make it clear that we desire a community of respect.  The university will respond decisively to these acts and those responsible, while nurturing awareness and respect for the diversity that is a foundational strength of this great institution.

Sincerely,

Ajay Nair, PhD
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life

Emory Campus Kitchens Founder Exemplifies "Catalyze"

Catalyze – one of several Division of Campus Life key concepts for the year – is described as “compelling one to significant action.” The concept applies to hundreds of Emory students whose response to the widening social and intellectual awareness of a liberal arts education is to take “significant action” that makes a difference in their own lives and the lives of others. 

Naomi Maisel, a junior with a double major in anthropology and human health, is one of many Emory students who exemplify the concept. She feels compelled to a range of actions that have touched lives from the organic farm in Latin America where she worked last summer raising and harvesting fruits and vegetables to the Emory campus where she writes for The Emory Wheel, serves as a Volunteer Emory director, and founded the university’s affiliate of The Campus Kitchens Project.

Campus Kitchens is a nationwide initiative that partners with more than 40 high schools, colleges, and universities to pick up unused, good-quality food from dining and catering facilities on campuses and from restaurants and other locations in the community to provide meals to nonprofit organizations that feed the hungry. 

Maisel’s message to other Emory students is that we all can be catalysts who make a difference. “My hope is that we remember what a privilege it is to have as much food as we have,” she said. “And each of us should understand that we have a responsibility to address some area of social need and become catalysts in the lives of others as well as our own.”

Emory’s Campus Kitchens project and its founder will be featured in an Emory News Center story in early November.

On a humorous note, Maisel – who would much rather get the job done than receive fanfare for doing it – reportedly is nonetheless delighted to be recognized by Campus Life’s Kid Dean Rani Nair, nine-year-old daughter of (real) Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair. With “catalyze” as the key concept for October, Dean Rani officially designated Maisel as the first “Dean’s Definer of the Month.”

naomi_pic1.jpg

In addition to receiving a medal, Maisel was accorded a cameo appearance in Kid Dean’s Definition of the Month video presentation. Asked to explain the award criteria and how Maisel was selected for such coveted recognition on a campus with so many “catalyzed and catalyzing” students, Kid Dean Rani reflected for several moments, shrugged, and said: “Naomi is awesome.” 

For more information on the award and Dean Rani’s videos on key concept definitions of the month, visit the Emory Kid Dean Facebook page or YouTube playlist.

Statement from Dean Ajay Nair

Dear Members of the Emory Community,

The university administration was recently made aware of allegations that a bias incident occurred at Monday’s intramural flag football game between the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) Fraternity and another team comprised of Emory students. Witnesses allege that during the game, AEPi’s opposing team was subjected to behavior that violated our community principles of inclusivity, openness, and respect.

The university has undertaken a full investigation of the incident in accordance with our Equal Opportunity and Discriminatory Harassment Policy. In addition, the Division of Campus Life is reaching out to the students who were targets of the alleged bias, and we are working with the fraternity’s leadership and witnesses to identify the individuals responsible.

Incidents like this are a reminder that each of us is vulnerable to the nefarious acts of a few. Whether these acts are sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, or anti-Semitic, we cannot and will not tolerate harassment of any individual or group. We share the indignation and disappointment already conveyed by many members of the university community. Such expressions of bias are offenses against both the intended victims and our entire university family.

Sincerely, 

Ajay Nair
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life

Available Resources

Office of International Student Life
Dobbs University Center, Suite E228
404.727.1078

Office of Multicultural Programs and Services
Dobbs University Center, Suite E207
404.727.6754

Counseling and Psychological Services
1462 Clifton Road, Suite 235
404.727.7450

Bias Incident Reporting Process