UConn: Weekend illness likely wasn’t food-related

STORRS, Conn. (WTNH) — You didn’t want to be in UConn’s John Buckley or Lester Shippee Hall Sunday as students say hundreds of stomachs were turning.

“One of my friends was feeling a bit nauseous while he was walking up the stairs and he threw up,” said UConn freshman Neil Sharma.

“I know my friend went to the hospital, actually, for whatever the illness was,” said UConn freshman Thomas Gracey.

“I went to go check on my friend ’cause she was feeling sick, so I gave her crackers, and then I went to the bathroom because I didn’t feel good,” said Emma Mills. “Then three other people were in the stalls and then people were running in. It was horrible. People were running on every floor; all you could hear was people throwing up.”

She said other students came to their rescue.

“We have a few EMTs on the floor so we’re lucky,” said Mills. “I’m feeling better. It was just a 12-hour thing. It was just the number of kids that were sick. People are still getting sick now.”

RELATED STORY: UConn students hospitalized for illness

School spokesperson Stephanie Reitz says they had a higher-than-usual number of illnesses this weekend, but did not give a specific number. Reitz says 10 were hospitalized. She says extra cleaning crews came in Sunday to disinfect common areas. Students say they have to report to an RA if they get sick.

“We have to pretty much wash our hands at all times and that’s what I’ve been doing, so luckily I haven’t gotten sick yet, but I’m scared,” said Gracey.

Gracey says he’s disappointed the school didn’t alert them when it started.

“It only takes a few minutes to type out an email,” he said.

“I’ve been washing my hands, taking more than one shower a day,” said Sharma.

Some students are concerned the sickness could be caused by food in the cafeteria, but Reitz said it’s highly unlikely.

“That facility serves more than 1,300 meals on an average day, so any food-related illness would be expected to be far more widespread,” said Reitz. “There is no current evidence from evaluations of the students who have been treated that their illnesses were caused by food consumption.”

“It is nearly impossible to distinguish food-borne illness from other infectious causes on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “That information is gleaned via evaluation of the outbreak as a whole, and UConn is working closely with local and state public health personnel to gather that information.”

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