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article imageUnknown illness breaks out at Toronto college, about 200 affected

By Arthur Weinreb     Jan 22, 2017 in Health
Toronto - At first it was thought food poisoning was responsible for 77 students falling ill at Toronto’s Humber College. But as food on the campus was examined and more students became sick, authorities are now not sure of the cause of the outbreak.
The illness first broke out Thursday afternoon. Some students began experiencing vomiting, severe abominable pain, nausea and dizziness. Since Thursday, 40 students went to or were rushed to hospital emergency rooms. One Humber student was admitted while the others were just treated in emergency. The person admitted to hospital has since been released. The hospital noted the cause of the illnesses as “unknown.”
The outbreak is being investigated by Toronto Public Health (TPH). The students who fell ill all lived in a single residence on the college’s North Campus and ate in the residence’s restaurant. At first, food poisoning from eating in the café was suspected. But now medical officials are not so sure. While food poisoning cannot be ruled out, inspections of the residence’s restaurant revealed no obvious safety issue. The café is still operating but some items such as salads have been taken off the menu. Citytv reports very few people are still eating there.
Dr. Michael Finkelstein, a spokesman for TPH, said the illnesses could be caused by a seasonal virus such as norovirus. If the cause is determined to be a virus, preventing the spread of the illness could be “challenging.” These viruses spread easily in environments such as student residences where many people live close together. Approximately 1,000 students live in the residence where the outbreak occurred.
On its website Humber College advised it is working closely with Toronto Public Health. In a Friday evening post, the college said it has increased cleaning in the residence. The college is also delivering water to students in the North Campus residence so they can remain hydrated.
Humber College is also requesting that students wash their hands with soap and hot water for at least 15 seconds after using the washroom and before preparing food or eating. Anyone who has had the symptoms is asked to stay home for at least 48 hours after they recover.
CBC reports many students have returned to their homes but those who live far away are stuck in the residence. One student reports those still living in the residence are “stressed.”
Toronto Public Health reports Humber College is cooperating with the investigation. The college has enacted cleaning protocols and has provided TPH with contact information for the affected students. TPH is continuing to investigate the outbreak.
More about mysterious illness, Food poisoning, Norovirus, seasonal virus, Toronto public health
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