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By Jamie McLeod

Two east-coast schools have been hit with mass-infections of Norwalk, a severe flu-like illness. Could it happen at Ryerson? The school is well-prepared, say health officials.

University life is getting dangerous.

Students are constantly under threat by essays, midterms, and the ever-present risk of alcohol poisoning, but now they have a new threat to worry about.

The Norwalk virus.

At Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., more than 300 people have come down with a strain of the Norwalk virus. At St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish N.S. about 60 people have been diagnosed. While uncomfortable, people don’t typically die from Norwalk.

Officials at both universities took steps to limit the spread of the disease, such as making hand-sanitizer available, cancelling sporting events and increased cleaning on campus.

According to Melissa Matton, Ryerson’s health promotion nurse, universities are particularly susceptible to infectious disease. However, she added that Ryerson is somewhat better off than St. FX or Mount Allison.

“Ryerson, because of the large commuter population, would be be difficult (to have a large scale infection),” Matton said.

Due to the nature of Norwalk’s symptoms, people are forced to stay home so the disease spreads more slowly and is easier to control.

“The symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. If you can clean that up appropriately, you’re OK,” she said.

Malton believes Norwalk would spread quickly through residences, but would not affect the larger Ryerson population nearly as much.

According to Glen Weppler, manager of student housing at Ryerson, there are extensive plans in place and in action to combat infectious diseases.

“(If a) large portion of the population becomes infected there are certain things that need to be done,” Weppler said.

Certain critical functions – such as feeding students and cleaning facilities – have secondary and tertiary people ready to do the job if the normal staffers get sick.

However, Matton says Norwalk pales in comparison to the flu, which travels more easily because it is a respiratory illness.

Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said the placement of hand sanitizers throughout campus helps reduce the transmission of infections agents.

Also, Ryerson has a good relationship with Toronto Public Health, and would follow its direction of an outbreak were to occur.

Note: The above headline was written from an Alberta-centric perspective at the expense of our PEI-born editor.

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