Babson College closed due to norovirus cases

About 100 have fallen ill since Wednesday

By Caitlin Castello
Globe Correspondent / March 29, 2009
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WELLESLEY - Babson College was closed at 5 p.m. yesterday due to an outbreak of the norovirus gastrointestinal illness.

About 100 students have fallen ill since Wednesday. The decision to close the school was made after a spike in the number of cases of the virus among students, said Dr. Marcia Testa-Simonson, vice chairwoman of the Wellesley Board of Health.

The symptoms of the norovirus include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The illness lasts 24 to 60 hours, according to Testa-Simonson. The virus can be spread through contaminated food or close contact with an infected individual. The college said in a statement that there was no indication that the outbreak was food-related.

The origin of the outbreak is unknown, health officials said.

The virus "can really spread like wildfire. [It's] really impossible to find the source," Dr. Alfred DeMaria, state epidemiologist, said at a news conference at the Wellesley Health Department.

There is no indication that the virus has spread to the Wellesley community, said Testa-Simonson. All of the college's classes and activities have been canceled, and students who live on campus have been asked to stay on campus to limit the spread of the disease. The school is aiming to reopen Wednesday, said Mary Suresh, director of the Wellesley Health Department.

A few severely ill students have been hospitalized so they can be intravenously rehydrated, said Shepard Cohen, the health board chairman.

To limit the spread of the illness, officials urged members of the college community to frequently wash their hands. Officials said maintenance staff are sanitizing campus facilities, and each student room has been stocked with cleaning supplies so students can clean their own living spaces.