A total of 49 student cases of gastrointestinal infection had been reported to Crisis Management as of 4:30 p.m. yesterday, according to Doug Miller, director of News and Media Relations. No new cases had been reported in the past 24 hours.
According to Dr. Jessica McKelvey, director of Student Health Services, Sid Richardson College is the main college with infected students, although several south colleges have been notified by their college coordinators of its spread. McKelvey said the cause of the infection, which presents with diarrhea and vomiting, has not been identified, but if cases continue to occur, the City of Houston Health Department will cover the cost of testing.
More than 40 students from Sid have symptoms of the gastrointestinal infection, according to Rice Health Advisor Nia Prince, a Sid sophomore, who said additional symptoms include chills, headache, soreness and exhaustion based on personal experience.
Sid senior Ike Arjmand, who said he had to take a “puke break” while responding to the Thresher’s questions, said he believes the illness is severe.
“The situation is serious in the sense that the sickness is contagious and has sent a few people to the hospital, though the vast majority experience symptoms to a lesser extent,” Arjmand said.
Lovett College coordinator Sharon O’Leary sent the earliest notice of the gastrointestinal illness to members of her college the evening of Aug. 29.
“Some of our students have had gastrointestinal symptoms that could have been caused by a virus, bacterial infection or from food poisoning,” O’Leary said. “A couple of people got really dehydrated and suffered from dizziness as well as nausea.”
Sid magister Kenton Whitmire sent a college-wide email on Sunday night regarding the illness. Whitmire said he will contact students’ professors on their behalf if they need to miss class. On Monday, Wiess College magister Andrew Schaefer emailed Wiess students that there were a number of cases of the gastrointestinal illness at a “nearby residential college.”
Prince, a sophomore, said she started a GroupMe, which at one point was named “Time to sue Sid,” for members of Sid who are affected by the illness.
“I started the GroupMe Friday when I realized that there was actually a large amount of people affected,” Prince said. “We mainly just tried to trace the source and give suggestions about what works foodwise to eat and to make sure everyone had supplies and medicine, but it’s actually now up to 40 people and is just people giving the newcomers advice on how to manage symptoms and occasional jokes about food cravings that we can’t have right now.”
Parents have also been vocal in the Rice Parent to Parent Network Facebook group, including Lisa Hudgins, parent of a Sid student, who said she posted in the Facebook group.
“I posted about the outbreak on Saturday afternoon so that parents could check on students and advise them to take precautions,” Hudgins said. “Many commenters expressed concern over the lack of communication. Many students were not aware of the issue or the need to take extra precautions.”
While McKelvey said the cause of infection has not been confirmed, Hudgins said parents commented that their students had received diagnoses of norovirus from the emergency room. The last norovirus outbreak at Rice was in December 2017, which prompted a university-wide notification from Crisis Management, according to a press release from Rice University’s Office of Public Affairs.
Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman sent an email to students on Sept. 3 stressing the importance of maintaining proper hygiene and containing the spread of illness by not attending class.
“I am writing today to remind you about the importance of good health habits for your own well-being and the health of our campus community,” Gorman said. “If you’re sick, don’t go to class. Staying in your room will help you recover and avoid spreading illness to others.”
McKelvey said hand-washing is the best precaution and Housing and Dining is taking extra precautions in their cleaning plans.
Arjmand said students should follow Dean Gorman’s recommendations regarding hygiene.
“The best thing we can do now is to follow Dean Gorman’s emailed advice regarding hand washing, staying in and using medical resources as needed,” Arjmand said. “We don’t want any more students to get sick if we can help it, and we want those who are sick to get the care they need.”
As a joke, Arjmand posted in the Rice Students Selling Stuff Facebook group with a “bounty” on “Sid Plague Patient Zero.”
“You have gotten 40 of us sick,” Arjmand said in his post. “The time has come for justice. Show yourself or be hunted like the monster you are.”