Norovirus closes Harvard Faculty Club

Since Sunday, 100 reports of illness

By Brock Parker
Globe Correspondent / April 8, 2010

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As many as 200 people may have been affected by a norovirus outbreak at the Harvard Faculty Club, forcing the restaurant and lodge to close for the second time in a week.

The club, which closed last week because of concerns about the virus, shut down again Tuesday as about 100 people reported becoming ill after eating at the club between Easter brunch Sunday and Tuesday morning.

Crista Martin, a spokeswoman for the school’s hospitality and dining services, said the decision to close was made immediately Tuesday when illnesses consistent with the gastrointestinal ailment were reported.

The club will remained closed for at least seven days while the building located on Quincy Street in Cambridge is cleaned, said Louise Rice, director of public nursing for the city.

“It’s very hard to rub out entirely,’’ Rice said.

The club was closed from March 30 to Saturday for what has now been confirmed as a norovirus outbreak, Rice said.

Common norovirus symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rice said no one has been hospitalized from the outbreak at the club.

But Rice estimated that about 100 other people became ill during the first outbreak. Many of them were visiting students.

Harvard voluntarily closed the club when the first wave of illnesses was reported last week, and the club brought in an outside cleaning crew to scrub the building down, Rice said. The city inspected the club, and Rice said the building was “spotless.’’ The city also screened full- and part-time employees at the club, about 100 of them, before it reopened Sunday, she said.

But by Tuesday morning, Harvard notified the city that a number of people had reported becoming ill after eating at the club between Easter Brunch and Tuesday morning.

Norovirus infections are spread by eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with the virus, touching contaminated surfaces before putting fingers into one’s mouth, and having direct contact with an infected person, according to the CDC.

The norovirus outbreak at the club is not the only one in recent weeks. A norovirus may have caused more than 70 students to become ill at Emerson College in Boston since the middle of last month.

Although Harvard Faculty Club employees were screened for the illness before the club reopened, Rice said, it is possible that at least one employee was carrying the virus without any symptoms. Otherwise, Rice said, the outbreak is probably tied to the virus being in the environment.

Cleaning crews will need to scrub every surface in the building from doorknobs to walls and telephones, she said.

Martin said the Faculty Club will follow all of the recommendations made by public health officials and work with them to “safeguard the health of our customers.’’

In a message on the Harvard Faculty Club’s website yesterday, the club was encouraging anyone who became ill after dining there to contact a doctor with immediate medical concerns and report an illness to the Cambridge Department of Public Health at 617-665-3800 so the cases can be accurately documented.

Brock Parker can be reached at

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