Cause of student hospitalizations still unclear

by Andie Diemer
Oct. 8, 2008

After two students were hospitalized last weekend for internal bleeding, the Health Department said they still have not been able to find any conclusive origin or diagnosis of the illnesses, according to Assistant Vice President for Student Life Jana Lynn Patterson.

Patterson said after having a phone conference with the county and state officials Friday, there is still no consistent pattern of where the students ate either on or off campus or where they live.

The Health Department said there is no pattern of food-borne related illnesses, Patterson said. However, the Health Department and state lab are still conducting cultures taken from the students and the results were not available at press time.

After being released from the hospital Sept. 28, juniors Mike Milano and Dan Rickershauser have visited the doctor once. Milano is visiting for another checkup today and Rickershauser has a CAT scan planned a month from now.

Both said they are feeling healthy and recovered.

Patterson said the state official for communicable diseases said on Friday there was no need to alarm, since the baseline numbers for patients who presented had a broad range of similar gastrointestinal symptoms are around the same for this time from 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.

There were only 72 cases with the same symptoms during the same time period this year, which is only a one percent increase, Patterson said.

“[This] is not significant given the size of our residential population,” she said.

Currently, the Health Department is talking to about 20 students. Most of these were contacted through the Health Department’s own investigation and they did not receive medical treatment on campus.

While a student was hospitalized a few weeks ago for a positive strain of salmonella bacteria, the Health Department said there is no known connection between the instances. That student is now fully recovered, Patterson said.

“The Health Department has not indicated or recommended any changes in food procurement, handling, storage or preparation for ARAMARK,” Patterson said.

For precautionary measures, Physical Plant cleaned and sanitized a few areas on campus, where some of the sick students live on campus.

Patterson said she has talked about cleaning procedures to students that may have been sick and live off campus to ensure their health.

She said the county health department is no longer requiring the school to report all cases of similar symptoms to the Health Department for follow up, but that the administration will be taking a modified protocol for the next two weeks instead.

“Our protocol will be to report to the Health Department if a patient presents with symptoms that meet more stringent criteria,” she said. “We have been reporting all cases of the specified symptoms this week, regardless of severity.”

She said in the event that more severe symptoms appear the staff will forward a sample onto a lab for normal testing that that the Health Department will be notified so they can evaluate the sample as well.

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