Hope College Closed Due To Suspected Norovirus

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Due to suspected Norovirus the Hope College campus is closed by order of the Ottawa County, Mich. Health Department. All college-related activites have been cancelled.

Hope College, in consultation with officials from the Ottawa County Health Department, has extended the closure of the college until at least 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12, because of a growing outbreak of a Noro-like-virus within the college community. The Health Department on Friday issued the emergency order because the highly contagious illness at that time was known to have impacted more than 100 students, faculty and staff. The original closing order had been until at least 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Ongoing reports to the college and health department over the weekend have raised the number suspected cases to an estimated 400 students, faculty and staff. Many of the reports are coming from students who chose to leave campus when the order was issued on Friday and are now ill. Students who have become infected while away from the campus are advised not to return until they receive permission from college officials.

All college buildings remain closed except to essential employees and those students who have remained on campus. All college events through at least Tuesday have been cancelled. This includes practices by the college's athletic teams. The next update can be expected at mid-day on Monday. The work of sanitizing campus facilities continues. Food supplies that needed to be replaced have been replenished. Phelps dining hall is open with regular student meal hours. Students are being encouraged to use the take-out service.

Students who have been taken ill while away from campus have been sent an advisory from the Health Department and Hope College with instructions not to return once the campus re-opens for a minimum of 36 hours after their symptoms (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting) have stopped. Decisions regarding events postponed because of this emergency will be made in the coming days.

STATEMENT FROM PRESIDENT BULTMAN

Friday, November 7, 2008 12:55 p.m.

To the Hope College Campus Community:

It is in regard to a serious health issue that I communicate with you at this time. Within the past few minutes the College Administrators have met with county health officials who issued the letter below with an emergency order. This order is mandatory under Michigan law.

Because of the growing number of reported illnesses today, health officials have changed their earlier advice to follow good hygiene practices to a cancellation of all campus activities effectively immediately.

It is strongly recommended by health officials that students refrain from travel and meeting in large groups.

Please watch for additional messages posted here regarding this situation.

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President James E. Bultman

Letter from Ottawa County Department of Health

Ottawa County Health Department
Emergency Order to Control an Epidemic
November 7, 2008

Hope College
141 E. 12th Street
Holland MI 49423

This Emergency order is made pursuant to Section 2251 and Section 2253 of the Michigan Public Health Code, MCL 333.2251 and MCL 333.2253.

The Ottawa County Health Department, in cooperation with college officials has been investigating a suspected Norovirus outbreak on the campus of Hope College. Approximately 120 students have reported symptoms to the Hope College Health Clinic and the Ottawa County Health Department.

Norovirus is a highly contagious illness and a common cause of diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Hospitalization is rare and most people recover in 24 to 48 hours.

In order to protect public health, the Ottawa County Health Department is issuing this order to prohibit the gathering of people on the Hope College Campus. This order includes the cancellation of classes, athletic events and any other event where people may gather on campus. This order is in effect from 1:00 p.m., Friday, November 7, 2008 through 8:00 a.m., Tuesday, November 11, 2008.

This order also includes closing all dining facilities until a thorough cleaning and disinfection, utilizing the attached guidelines, can be completed. Dining facilities may be opened after disinfection, however, carry out services are encouraged.

With this order we are advising the cleaning and disinfection of all common gathering areas and commonly touched surfaces such as door handles, keyboards, and desk tops.

Compliance with this order is mandatory under Michigan Law. Thank you for your cooperation in protecting public health. If you have any questions about this order, please call Lisa Stefanovsky, Ottawa County Health Officer at 616- 393-5781or Dr. Paul Heidel, Ottawa County Medical Director at 616-494-5548.

Lisa Stefanovsky
Ottawa County Health Officer

What is Norovirus? -- Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis in humans. The symptoms of norovirus infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, and low-grade fever. Noroviruses are transmitted through the consumption of fecally contaminated food or water, direct person-to-person spread, or environmental contamination. The source of the illness at Hope has not been determined.

Please Assist Authorities -- Students, faculty and staff who have inccurred this illness are asked to notify the Ottawa County Health Department to assist authorities in their investigation of this outbreak. Send an email to either Dvand[email protected] or [email protected] or telephone 616-393-5645.

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