Virus sickens 28 students; Shaw dining hall closed
Health officials are awaiting lab results to determine the cause of a viral outbreak that sickened 25 to 30 MSU students and caused the indefinite closure of Shaw Hall’s cafeteria Wednesday.
Investigators completed student interviews Wednesday afternoon looking for common links among students who were hospitalized with a stomach virus. The students, many of whom live in Shaw Hall, began arriving at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital at about 2 a.m. Wednesday with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, about a dozen of the estimated 28 students remained hospitalized, Sparrow Hospital spokeswoman Rose Tantraphol said. None of the students were ever in serious condition, Tantraphol said.
Shaw Hall’s cafeteria and Totally Takeout were shuttered Wednesday morning when it became apparent the virus could have been contained to the dorm.
“We had enough indication from the university physicians that it appeared to be something at Shaw Hall,” MSU spokesman Kent Cassella said.
As a precaution, fresh produce was pulled from cafeterias across campus by the university.
Officials at the Ingham County Health Department, which is leading the investigation, are looking into whether the virus was food-borne.
“It’s a possibility, but it’s not that we’re leaning to that or jumping to that conclusion,” Ingham County Medical Director Dean Sienko said. “We know that when we have a cluster of people fall ill like this at the same time, oftentimes food is the responsible vehicle.”
Sienko said health officials expect to receive the first round of lab tests today, which could shed light on what type of virus sickened the students. It’s unclear whether the virus could have passed between students, Sienko said.
Animal science freshman and Shaw Hall resident Victoria Cann said she was awake throughout the night after her boyfriend, finance freshman Joe Hackett, was rushed to the hospital at about 3 a.m.
Cann said Hackett was in a Sparrow emergency room until 8 a.m., when he was moved to another room separate from other Shaw Hall residents suffering from a stomach virus.
“He feels better now and he wants to come home,” Cann said Wednesday afternoon.
MSU Division of Housing & Food Services employees worked Wednesday to disinfect Shaw Hall bathrooms and doorknobs, and windows in the hall were opened to improve ventilation to prevent the possibility of the virus’ spread.
The closing of Shaw Hall’s cafeteria and Totally Takeout set off a chain of events Wednesday that affected students’ daily routines.
Inside campus cafeterias, fruits and vegetables were removed and replaced by pasta salad, pudding, meats and cheeses.
Outside the Snyder-Phillips cafeteria, students were lining up 10-deep to get in for the lunch hour.
“It’s already an inconvenience to go to (Snyder-Phillips), and there’s not really another dorm that’s that close,” said Shaw Hall resident and marketing sophomore Melanie Pine. “It’s not like South Complex where you can go to another dorm.”
For Shaw Hall cafeteria supervisor and supply chain sophomore Alex McCall, the cafeteria closing meant a day off from work.
Although McCall said he enjoyed the extra free time, he hopes the closing isn’t long-term and doesn’t look forward to food safety lectures from his cafeteria superiors.
“It’s going to get really stringent around there,” McCall said.