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Friday, 11 May 2012

Update on outbreak of diarrhoeal illness

In the last 24 hours, we have received 8 new notifications from residents who are unwell. At least two of those are probably unrelated to the outbreak. This compares with 31 new notifications in the first 48 hours of the outbreak. So it looks as though things are starting to settle down.

Regular handwashing with soap & water, especially after using the toilet, before eating, and after spending time with anyone who has been unwell, is still very important. The alcohol gel is a useful additional measure but does not replace hand washing with soap & water.

It's also really important that if you have been unwell, you must continue to use the "pink" bathrooms for 48 hours after your symptoms resolved, and be absolutely scrupulous about hand hygiene. Where possible, try to avoid social contact for 48 hours.

We are still waiting for microbiological data about the cause of this illness.

I think we are all very grateful to Dr Mark Hunter, the GP from 20 Gower Street, who spent around 3 hours in the Hall on Tuesday seeing unwell residents, and has been back another 3 times since. I will write to Dr Hunter to express our thanks and invite him to the University's big Diamond Jubilee party on 2nd June.

A common question arising now is about mitigating circumstances claims for missed exams, or exams where residents feel their performance will be impaired by having been unwell. The advice I give is as follows:

Ask your tutors what the procedure is at your particular institution for making an extenuating/mitigating circumstances claim. In most cases (and certainly if you actually miss your exam) they will expect a formal medical certificate from a doctor who has examined you. In this case, you should seek an appointment with your London GP (general practitioner / primary care physician / family doctor) as soon as possible.

I can provide a letter along the following lines, but it will be supplementary evidence only - not enough on its own to support a claim:

This person is a resident student at Connaught Hall. There has been an outbreak of diarrhoea and vomiting in the Hall, affecting a very significant proportion of our residents.

The likely causative organism of this outbreak is Norovirus, a very highly infectious virus sometimes called the “winter vomiting bug”. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) and local GPs are involved. Affected residents are being encouraged to isolate themselves for 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea, but the HPA recognises that this may not be possible during the exam season.

Please take these considerations into account with regard to any attendance logs, course work, or examinations expected of residents at Connaught Hall this week and next. Due to the timing, inability of those affected to leave the building – both due to isolation and the need to be close to a toilet - and the large numbers affected, they may not all be able to obtain a medical certificate from their doctor as quickly as we should like.
If you are going to see your GP, this text might be useful to show them.
I hope everyone affected is back to full health very soon. Remember there is lots of advice available in this blog and elswhere online for treating D&V and getting better afterwards: