(This February 24 story was corrected to change location of university to western part of state from central, in first paragraph)
By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - At least 200 students at a western Ohio public university have reported symptoms of the highly contagious norovirus, school officials said on Wednesday.
Reports of the outbreak at Miami University started last Tuesday when five students came into a school health center at the Oxford, Ohio, main campus, located about 35 miles (56 km) north of Cincinnati, complaining of stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, a university spokeswoman said.
Since the initial reports, a number of students have tested positive for norovirus, said the spokeswoman, Carole Johnson.
“We have been very diligent in our cleaning and are using products that combat the virus in our residential and dining halls,” she said. A small number of the students have gone to a local hospital since the outbreak for dehydration symptoms, she said.
Norovirus is the most common cause of food-borne disease outbreaks in the United States. Infections usually occur in places such as hospitals, cruise ships and universities, where people eat and live in close quarters.
The university, which has a population of nearly 20,000 students, faculty and staff, has not been able to identify the initial source of the virus. Communications from the university recommend students wash their hands with soap and water as antiseptic gels and wipes are ineffective in killing the virus.
During the last several months, outbreaks of norovirus have been reported at restaurants in Kansas and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc <CMG.N> restaurants across the United States.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported a norovirus outbreak affecting more than 100 students at the University of Michigan last week.
Norovirus affects about 19 million to 21 million people in the United States each year, causing between 570 to 800 related deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(Editing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis)