- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Doctors think they have identified a virus that sickened dozens of teenagers attending a leadership conference at the University of Maryland at College Park, hospital officials said yesterday.

Preliminary medical tests show that students who complained of nausea and other gastrointestinal problems had norovirus, said Frederick J. Corder, head of the Prince George’s County Health Department.

“Tests that we believe are pretty positive have come out, but our final DNA readings will come out by the end of the week,” Dr. Corder said.

About 100 teenagers and five adults were treated at four area hospitals on Saturday and Sunday, Prince George’s County health officials said. They were among 300 teenagers attending a two-week leadership conference on health care at the College Park campus. Seven teens remained hospitalized Tuesday, and others were given detailed instructions on how to avoid spreading the virus, Dr. Corder said.

“The key here is hand-washing to stop the spread of it,” he said.

A residence hall where the students stayed was quarantined and disinfected yesterday. Health officials also were screening food-service workers who prepared meals for the students.

“We don’t know whether it was a person source or surface that may have caused this,” Dr. Corder said.

Norovirus can cause diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting for 24 to 48 hours. It is spread through food and water and close contact with infected people or the items they have touched.

It sickens an estimated 23 million people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recent outbreaks have occurred on cruise ships and at Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks.

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