Norovirus struck Humber College, Toronto Public Health confirms

Officials say there has been no major increase in the number of students falling ill at a college in northwest Toronto after 215 reported falling ill in the last four days.

No major increase reported in number of students sick and 75% say they feel better

Humber College North has set up water and sanitation stations to try to control the spread of suspected norovirus. About 215 people have reported falling ill in the past four days, but the numbers appear to have reached a plateau, officials say. (Sarah Walker)

Officials say there has been no major increase in the number of students falling ill at a college in northwest Toronto after 215 reported becoming sick in the last four days.

The outbreak of norovirus — a virulent stomach bug — at a campus residence at Humber College North, near Highway 27 and Finch Avenue West was confirmed Monday evening by Toronto Public Health. 

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was scheduled to visit the campus on Monday in a tour that was planned before the outbreak. She is expected to tour part of the campus but to avoid the residence where the illness has been reported.

Jennifer Beaudry, press secretary for Wynne, said no staff at the college will be pulled away from looking after students to escort the premier.
Notices have been put up at Humber College North to give advice to students to prevent the illness from spreading. (Sarah Walker)

Toronto Public Health reported that two stool samples tested positive for norovirus, but it plans to test several other samples as well. The symptoms of the illness — vomiting and diarrhea — were also consistent with norovirus, according to the public health agency.

"The signs and symptoms of ill students continue to be suggestive of norovirus," Dr. Michael Finkelstein, associate medical officer of health, said in a statement on Monday.

"There has been no significant increase in the total number of ill students," he added.

According to the college, about 75 per cent of the students who were ill now say they are feeling better. It also said that staff are working hard to ensure the outbreak doesn't get worse. 

Food safety procedures

​Food vendors on campus have discarded "open food items" that might have become contaminated by sick students. Self-serve food areas, such as soup and salad bars, have been shut down.

Toronto Public Health food safety inspectors were on campus to inspect food vendors. On the weekend, inspectors reviewed food preparation at the residence cafeteria twice. Food vendors, including Mucho Burrito, were to be inspected on Monday.

Andrew Leopold, communications director at Humber College, said staff are working hard to prevent the sickness from spreading.

"As of this morning, the number of ill students has not increased appreciably and we are working diligently to ensure that this continues," he said.
Humber College North said 75 per cent of students who fell ill now say they are feeling better. (CBC)

The college remains open and it was not told by public official healths to close, he said.

"We have been working with and taking guidance from Toronto Public Health. They have not given us any indication that we should close the campus," he said.

All classes and campus activities are continuing and the residence cafeteria as well as all eateries on campus remain open. Food items, such as utensils or condiments, are pre-packaged or being served by food service staff, he said.

Leopold said cleaning staff have been wiping down "high touch" and common areas with products specifically designed to deal with viruses such as norovirus.

The college is urging all students and employees to do the following:

  • wash hands regularly using soap and warm water, rubbing for at least 15 seconds; 
  • use hand sanitizer when available.

With files from Laura Fraser