At least a dozen Georgetown students sickened; cause unknown

There’s a nasty bug on the Georgetown campus in D.C.

The university said that since Tuesday, 12 students on the main campus have reported symptoms including severe stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea.

The students are being treated, and the school said it’s working to figure out whether the cases are connected, as well as what the cause is.

“The [cases] are likely due to an infectious organism, but do not appear to be related to COVID-19 or influenza (flu),” Georgetown University Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Ranit Mishori said Wednesday in an afternoon update.

In an email to the community, Mishori said people should be aware of a Centers for Disease Control report about a salmonella outbreak that has hit 25 states and sickened 127 people.

The CDC said the food source of the outbreak is not yet known. As a precaution, the university said it has also removed pre-packaged and pre-washed food items “commonly associated with foodborne illnesses from our dining facilities,” in addition to stepping up cleaning and disinfecting residence halls and dining areas.

“While we do not know the cause of this outbreak, if you are experiencing symptoms, please limit your contact with others and keep yourself well hydrated. As a reminder, please practice good hand hygiene, washing with soap and water frequently or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer,” Mishori wrote.

“Our Public Health team is in touch with the D.C. Department of Health,” Mishori said. “We will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as needed.”

The school is also continuing to collect stool samples to determine potential pathogens. They said preliminary information indicated the illness is not caused by person-to-person transmission.

“We are encouraged that most students are reporting short-lived symptoms and that no students have been hospitalized, though a small number have been evaluated and provided with rehydration at local emergency departments,” Mishori said.

Those on campus or in the surrounding neighborhoods experiencing severe symptoms can call the Georgetown University Police Department at 202-687-4343 for assistance. Otherwise, call 911.

For students and staff:

  • Contact the Student Health Center at 202-687-2200 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., or reach an on-call Student Health Center clinician after hours by calling the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital paging operator at 202-444-7243. Please indicate that you are a Georgetown student who would like to speak to the doctor on call for the Student Health Center. The paging operator will contact the on-call clinician and that person will call you back at the phone number you provide (usually within 30 minutes).
  • Students may also go to the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital emergency room or the hospital/health care facility closest to where they reside.
  • Faculty or staff should contact your health care provider or seek immediate treatment. Please also contact the public health team at chiefpublichealthofficer@georgetown.edu.

In an email to WTOP sent on Wednesday morning, a person claiming to be a parent of a sickened Georgetown student said their daughter “was picked up via 911 call after none of the GU numbers or contacts answered the phone.”

“[S]he’s been at GU Hospital in a chair with a waiting room full of kids throwing up and fainting. Some kids were taken to different hospitals, but the news is the same … they are all waiting… the beds are full… my daughter threw up and lost consciousness, falling out of her waiting room chair and someone came to give her an IV… but she’s still sitting… waiting,” the email reads.

They said parents have gotten “NO communication” from the university.

“This is much more serious and GU has utterly failed the kids thus far.”

WTOP has reached out to the school for information as well as and several hospitals. D.C. Health directed reporter questions to the university.

WTOP’s Glynis Kazanjian contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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