Mystery illness sickens 192 students at Pennsylvania college

Norristown, Pa. (WTXF/AP) The Montgomery County Health Department is currently investigating an outbreak of gastro-intestinal illness associated with students from Ursinus College. 

As a precaution, the school canceled classes and shut down dining halls for the remainder of Thursday, as well as all of Friday.

Ursinus College said the students had reported symptoms such as vomiting and stomach pain by Wednesday afternoon and 22 of them had sought treatment at local hospitals or urgent care centers.

As of Friday afternoon, 192 students, staff, and faculty have exhibited symptoms of the stomach illness, and have contacted the college's wellness center.

None of the new cases required trips to the hospital. 

Events planned for this weekend have also been canceled. 

A college spokeswoman said in a statement Wednesday that officials are working with Montgomery County health authorities to try to determine whether the ailment is food-borne or transmitted from person to person. Officials noted that it is common for gastrointestinal illnesses such as Norovirus to circulate in colleges and long-term care facilities at this time of year.

MCHD is interviewing students and employees and looking at all possible sources of infection and looking for any commonalities.

"Ursinus' first priority is the health and well-being of our students," President Brock Blomberg said in a statement. "We will continue to work closely with officials from the Department of Health and follow their recommendations."

The college said health officials estimate it could take a few days before the cause of the outbreak has been determined. During that time dining areas will undergo "a complete cleaning and sanitization," the college said.

Ursinus has partnered with Wawa, Wegman's and local pizza shops and a bakery to provide food while the cafeterias are closed.

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