Mystery bug sends Rutgers students to hospital
At least 35 students are complaining of feeling sick after a suspected virus broke out on campus around Dec. 7.
Many of these students, who claim to have eaten in the Livingston and Brower Dining Halls, believe they are suffering from food poisoning. But University Sanitarian John Nason said he does not think this is a food-borne illness.
“The virus is people-to-people. We don’t believe it’s food-borne,” he said. “Most people are getting sick 90 minutes to two hours after eating, which doesn’t make sense. Most people who get sick after eating think it’s food poisoning.”
He said the onset time of 90 minutes to two hours does not equivocate to a food-borne virus, considering viruses such as E. coli and salmonella have an onset time of about six to 48 hours.
Nason said he received an unprecedented number of calls on Tuesday from students complaining of being sick after eating in the dining halls. The County Health Department was eventually alerted of the possible virus.
“We’re looking for information from them,” he said. “We think it could be a norovirus. This is suggested to be person-to-person and follows that time.”
University Health Services is also aware of the issue, and the University is working together to find the source,” he said.
School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Kylee Shivok said she was taken to the hospital Monday night after eating leftover wings from the Livingston Dining Hall.
“All of a sudden, I started getting nauseous and proceeded to puke and gag, even where there was nothing left,” she said. “I had awful abdominal pain ... I couldn’t get (off) the floor of the bathroom.”
She said her resident assistant then called Emergency Medical Services, and she was taken to Saint Peter’s University Hospital to be treated.
“I went to the hospital and the EMS said they had just taken two other people with some kind of stomach bug going around. I have also heard that other people within my house were sent to the hospital as well,” she said.
Shivok was told by doctors that it was most likely a stomach bug or virus, similar to what the other two people were treated for.
“I’ve never been this sick before. It was actually awful. They gave me medication to stop the nausea, but my body is achy from puking so much,” she said.
When Shivok returned to her dorm room on Livingston campus after her overnight hospital stay, she said she vomited again, though her sickness did not compare to how bad it was before.
Shivok said she is feeling better after taking nausea medication.
“(I’m) definitely better. I haven’t puked since about 4:30 this morning,” she said. “I just feel incredibly achy. I’m definitely dehydrated.”
In response to students being sick, Nason said Rutgers Dining Services is taking extra precautions to prevent others from getting sick, as well as evaluating food service workers to ensure none of them are sick either. No food service worker has been identified as ill, but Nason said they will be checking again tonight as a precaution.
“You know, we’re reviewing food safety with staff, increasing hand washing, monitoring food temperature and really increasing the levels of sanitation in the dining halls,” he said.
Sophie Nieto-Munoz is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and Italian. She is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. You can find her on Twitter @snietomunoz for more.