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California Briefing / LOS ANGELES

Outbreak at USC may have peaked

October 07, 2008|Larry Gordon

The number of USC students sickened by a contagious gastrointestinal virus has risen to about 275 but officials said Monday that the outbreak may have peaked.

Students with symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps have been treated at on- and off-campus medical clinics in the last few days. The university has cleaned dorms and dining halls to limit further spread of the virus, but classes and other campus functions have been kept on a normal schedule.

Dr. Lawrence Neinstein, executive director of the health center at USC's main University Park campus, said the number of students seeking medical care appeared to be declining after initial reports of illness Friday and Saturday.

Students who suffered serious dehydration were given intravenous fluids, and about 10 were briefly hospitalized, often because other medical conditions put them at risk, he said.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County director of public health, said campuses can be vulnerable to such illnesses because, like army barracks and cruise ships, they bring large numbers of people into close contact.

USC officials emphasized that the problem was not caused by food contamination. Over the weekend, a campus dining facility called "Everybody's Kitchen" was closed briefly while Los Angeles County health inspectors checked but found no evidence of contamination, USC spokesman James Grant said. The facility has since reopened.

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