Charlottesville Health Department investigating first-year gastrointestinal illnesses

University Dining Services marketing manager says she does not believe virus related to dining hall food


The Charlottesville Health Department is investigating the cause of a gastrointestinal illness which sent about 15 students, mostly first years, to University Emergency Services during the weekend.

Student Health Director Christ Holstege sent an email to first-year students alerting them of the incident but did not identify a cause. Dean of Students Allen Groves said there is not any evidence linking the illness to food from University dining halls, despite some speculation from students.

“As I understand it, the Charlottesville Health Department was notified right away and is investigating,” Dean of Students Allen Groves said.

“We heard reports of multiple students with gastrointestinal illness, some of whom had been to the dining hall and others who had not." Groves said in an email. "A stomach virus is a possible culprit (and we asked housekeeping staff to quickly clean all first-year residence hall bathrooms to help limit transmission), but again, we do not know a cause for certain at this point in time.”

Nicole Jackson, the University Dining Services marketing manager, said she believed the outbreak was due to a virus unrelated to food provided in the dining halls.

“The investigation continues, but it [is] believed to be a virus with no connection to food service,” Jackson said in an email.

Despite reassurances from University officials, student speculation continues.

“It’s kind of scary,” said first-year College student Jewel Morris, who lives in a residence area with several affected students. “We think someone on our hall has it, but they’re taking care of it. There’s been an increase in the sanitation of our bathrooms.”

First-year Engineering student Richard Dizon expressed similar concerns.

“Lots of people are concerned about it,” he said. “One of my friends, she got it herself, … she’s finally recovering, but she said not to go to O’Hill [dining hall] for a few days.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, gastroenteritis is spread through contaminated food or water or contact with an infected person, and the best method prevention is frequent hand washing.

“Drink fluids and get plenty of rest,” Holstege said in his email to students. “Seek medical treatment if you are unable to keep any fluids down, you see blood or mucus in your stool, you vomit black or dark red material, [or] you have persistent abdominal pain.”

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