MIT Reports Gastroenteritis Outbreak

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 4: A general view of MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory on March 4, 2013 in Cambridge. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 4: A general view of MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory on March 4, 2013 in Cambridge. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

Stomach flu is going around MIT.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a statement announcing a gastroenteritis outbreak on its campus, which includes symptoms of diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Two of the people were seen by MIT Medical staff at the beginning of the week, and 16 more were seen on Wednesday (Dec. 5). Even more people presented with the symptoms last night, and several more visited urgent care with these symptoms by noon Friday (Dec. 6).

Health officials at MIT say they don't know yet what's causing the illness, though it's possible that it's a severe kind of gastroenteritis, called norovirus.

"But whether it's norovirus or not, our response should be the same -- paying extra attention to practicing good hygiene," said Howard Heller, the associate medical director at the university, said in a statement. "Frequent and consistent hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of this type of virus."

Norovirus sickens anywhere from 19 to 21 million people each year in the U.S., and leads to 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 580 to 800 deaths each year. The most common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, and sometimes fever, headache and body aches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's contagious, and people can become infected by eating or drinking contaminated food items, touching contaminated items and then putting your now-contaminated fingers into your mouth, or by coming into contact with someone with norovirus.