Seventy-four students have sought medical treatment in the last three days due to gastrointestinal illness, according to Assistant Vice President and Executive Director of Emory University Student Health and Counseling Services Michael Huey. This number does not account for students who fell ill and did not seek medical treatment between Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.
Currently, the cause of the illnesses is unknown. Emory’s Student Health Services (SHS) has been working actively with Emory medical personnel, including infectious disease experts and the DeKalb County Board of Health to pinpoint the cause of the student illnesses, Huey wrote in an email to the Wheel.
In an all-Emory email from Huey Thursday night, he wrote, “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 can be caused primarily by viruses, bacteria and food-borne toxins,” Huey wrote. “We have not yet ruled out any of these causes. Stool cultures from some of the ill students have been sent to the State of Georgia Laboratory and results are pending.”
In response to the significant spike in illness on campus, Emory Dining followed its established protocols to take the necessary precautions, according to Senior Director of Emory’s Food Service Administration David Furhman.
As part of Emory Dining’s protocols, all remaining food served on Tuesday was isolated and retained for analysis as needed; the DeKalb County Board of Health inspected the premises on Wednesday and found no issues of concern or infractions; hand sanitizer was positioned “more prominently;” the campus-wide food service safety and sanitation specialist had been placed at the Dobbs Market in the Dobbs University Center (DUC) full time; and common use customer utensils have been and are being replaced “more than is required,” according to Furhman.
Many affected students have been treated at both Emory University Hospital’s (EUH) Emergency Department and SHS. However, according to Huey, the seriousness of illness has varied among students, with vomiting as the most common symptom. Some were treated and kept overnight in the observation area at the EUH Emergency Department while others were quickly treated and released.
By Wednesday night, 54 students had sought medical attention. Fourteen of those students sought treatment at EUH’s Emergency Department while 40 went to SHS.
Yesterday, doctors at SHS treated 20 students, bringing the total to 74. According to Huey, the majority of the students had been ill the day before and most of them had significantly improved.
Although the cause of the illness has yet to be officially determined, several students who fell ill and who spoke to the Wheel indicated that they had eaten at Dobbs Market before falling ill and believe it to be the cause.
College sophomores and Woodruff residence hall roommates Adnan Basrai and Adriano Suckow both fell ill following a dinner at Dobbs Market but did not seek medical attention.
Although they could not pinpoint the exact food item that caused their illnesses, Basrai and Suckow both agreed that they believed that it was most likely something they ate at Dobbs Market.
Following their meal, both exhibited signs of weakness and vomiting later that night and early the next morning.
“I’m going to stay away from the DUC for a few days,” Basrai said.
College freshman and Longstreet-Means hall resident Lydia Rautman said she ate at the DUC for dinner on Tuesday and suffered from vomiting throughout the night. She went to SHS the next morning seeking help.
College freshman Allen Shiu said he ate an omelet at the DUC the night before he got sick. “I was walking back to my dorm and I was already starting to feel stomach pains,” Shiu wrote in an email to the Wheel.
Student Health and Counseling Services has already provided Residence Life staff and students with information on how to prevent the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses, such as hand washing, good hand hygiene and not preparing food for others, according to Huey.
College junior and Longstreet-Means Resident Advisor (RA) Fuad Haddad said he and his staff have been advising students who are not feeling well to either go to the Emergency Department or SHS, depending on the severity of their conditions.
According to College sophomore and Turman residence hall Sophomore Advisor (SA) Neil Dhruv, there have been two or three cases of the illness in his residence hall.
“A lot of people have ended up seeking Student Health Services or going to the emergency room for medical attention,” Dhruv said.
In order to prevent the spread of the illness, Dhruv has been warning residents to keep bathrooms clean.
“We request that anyone who is sick tells us so that we can report it to upper Residence Life and help them get proper medical attention,” Dhruv said. “I think the illness is just starting out, so I think it may get worse in the next couple of days. I think it will blow over in a week or two.”
Dhruv added that he believes the illness is food-related “because a lot of our residents have complained of getting ill after eating,” he said.
In addition to the SHS guidelines for Residence Life staff and the all-Emory email, Assistant Athletics Trainer John Dunham sent an email to Emory student athletes on Wednesday afternoon notifying them of the virus and encouraging athletes to follow the guidelines to stay healthy, which includes avoiding sick individuals and washing hands.
“If you do become ill or have any questions, please contact the Sports Medicine Staff,” Dunham wrote.
Following the outbreak, some students have expressed disappointment about the way in which the illness spread. “People have been really riled up about it,” Basrai said. “[Students] didn’t expect it.”
Although the cause has not been determined, Huey believes that the worst is likely over.
“We are hopeful that we have reached our peak.”