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Butler sorority sickness spreads on campus

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Lynda Moore/Eyewitness News HealthBeat

Indianapolis, October 13, 2003 - The number of cases doubled since last week. The illness broke out at the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house. Now, the sorority sickness has spread to dorms and other places on the Butler Univeristy campus.

On the Butler campus Monday, it's business as usual. Students head to class on a sunny October day.

But others are trying to recover from a vicious stomach illness that lingers for a couple days, and one that continues to spread around campus.

Cara Barnett says, "In the dorm right behind me, some of the girls on the third floor are getting it now, I heard. So we're kind of being careful and watching what we touch...it's scary. It doesn't sound like it's very fun to get."

Greg Campanello had classes with some sick students and says he's concerned, "Well, yeah, I would be, because if I'm in contact with these people, then it's something, because I don't want to get sick. I have a full plate. And getting sick is the last thing I want to happen right now."

Health officials believe they're dealing with a virus.

Dr. Crystal Jones speculates the sorority sickness is "probably something very similar to a Norwalk virus, which is the kind of virus that caused outbreaks on the cruise ships and is very common to cause outbreaks of this type."

The symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The health department sent out surveys to those who are sick to help them find answers.

Students are taking their own precautions.

Brooke Boeglin has "just tried to be really cautious of it, like I said, using the keyboard within the classroom. After I get done with that, I try to wash my hands because you don't know who's been there before you. And hopefully, it's not somebody that's contracted the virus."

No students are under isolation anymore, but a word of advice from Dr. Jones:  "We're just saying it's good practice if you're not feeling well, if you are having diarrhea, if you are having vomiting, you probably ought to stay and rest. Because one thing, you need to be rehydrating yourselves."

The health department took samples from the sick students, but the results aren't back yet. They're checking for bacterial causes, such as e-coli and shigella, and say they can't rule those out.

But they say it's more likely the cause is viral.

Meantime, they're stressing thorough hand washing.