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‘Tis the season for norovirus

Outbreak at Humber College is part of yearly cycle, according to health expert

Over 200 students at Humber’s North Campus reported feeling ill with symptoms of vomiting, nausea and diarrhea in mid-January. Since then authorities at Toronto Public Health have confirmed that eight students have tested positive for norovirus.

But this is not an unusual trend, according to Dr. Michael Finkelstein, associate medical officer of health at TPH.

“Norovirus is a small virus that does circulate each winter month in Toronto,” Finkelstein says.

Nor is Humber the first school to have a confirmed case of norovirus this year. In November two schools in York Region were found to have an outbreak.

Currently, five child care centres in the Waterloo region are also believed to be affected by norovirus, and a suspected outbreak has occurred at Conestoga College.

That is because the virus is highly contagious and often breaks out in confined spaces like cruise ships, daycare centres, nursing homes and schools.

Easy to misdiagnose

Many cases of norovirus are misdiagnosed and blamed on food poisoning or other illnesses.

This is “because the signs and symptoms of norovirus — nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, dizziness — can be caused by a number of different agents and they can be caused by something that somebody ate,” Finkelstein says.

The symptoms arrive quickly but go away within two to three days.

“Very few people get seriously ill. They might feel quite awful when they get it, but they usually recover quickly without any complications,” Finkelstein says.