Published 03/24/16

Letter to Bryant community regarding norovirus

To all members of the Bryant community,

As you may already know from my email of March 18, 34 student-athletes on our men’s lacrosse team contracted a norovirus that was present through another patron at Wright’s Farm Restaurant where they had dinner on Sunday, March 13th.  Since then, all of these student-athletes have recovered and are now symptom-free.

To ensure that the Bryant campus was sanitized in accordance with R.I. Department of Health procedures and free of contamination, we hired an environmental cleaning company that specializes in this type of work. The firm both tested campus locations for protein levels, an indication of the virus, and cleaned the impacted areas with virucidal disinfectant cleaning products. Our investment in this thorough cleaning was significant, exceeding $100,000, and designed to respond quickly to protect the health and well-being of our community we made it a priority.

Fortunately, most of the student body was on spring break during last week’s initial outbreak. In addition to the 34 men’s lacrosse players who first contracted the virus, 11 more student-athletes who came in contact with the students who were ill during spring break subsequently showed symptoms. Of the 45 student-athletes who exhibited symptoms, all but one (1) have now been cleared. That single student is being monitored and isolated from normal daily activity.

We have consulted with the head epidemiologist at the R.I. Department of Health, Dr. Bandy, who has advised us that the normal course of the norovirus has an incubation period of 1-2 days where the spread of the infection rapidly escalates to 60-80% of the population who are in close proximity or contact with infected virus carriers. This rapid spread is a distinctive condition of norovirus as compared to a normal incidence of flu with similar symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. In our population, two to four cases per week would be expected in a typical spring.  Since Bryant has now completed two incubation periods without any rapid spread of the norovirus, the R.I. Department of Health has advised us that we are not experiencing an outbreak.

Since students returned from spring week break and classes resumed on Monday, we have had two (2) students who are not athletes present themselves at Health Services with flu-like symptoms. This is, according to the R.I. Department of Health, a normal rate of incidence for our school in any given week of flu season. Our Health Services records also document this as a predictable incident rate for past years (2 to 4 cases per week). The R.I. Department of Health has advised us that if we were experiencing norovirus outbreak it would spread much faster than two students over a ten-day period.

We have heard and investigated the concerns expressed by our students. The facts, however, as confirmed by medical experts at the R.I. Department of Health, are that there does not appear to be a spread of norovirus on campus. According to the R.I. Department of Health, there is also not an expectation that such a spread might occur in the days and weeks ahead.

Despite this, we will continue to monitor all students and be especially vigilant in treating illnesses of similar symptoms. To ensure the health and well-being of our students, staff, and faculty, we have increased our communication regarding proactive measures we can all take to remain healthy, including thorough hand washing and sanitization procedures. As we have advised in an earlier email and attach again here, control of all contagious diseases, whether regular flu or a norovirus, is best accomplished by good hygiene practices. The attached communication from Health Services provides a good guideline.

The R.I. Department of Health has confirmed that we took the right initial actions last week and prevented a rapid spread of the virus. While norovirus is an unpleasant experience, we have also been advised that even for those who contract the norovirus it is a 24-48 hour illness which in a student population has no residual consequences.

The R.I. Department of Health has also advised us that they do not recommend closing Bryant for any period of time, even if we were to experience an increased incidence which has not been the factual case.

Despite the aforementioned information, we will continue to monitor all sickness and sites of illness to contain the potential for any contagious activity, consistent with guidelines from the R.I. Department of Health, whether it is a regular flu or a new outbreak of a norovirus. Although you may see some social media texts and tweets to the contrary, these are the facts and the expert advice from the R.I. Department of Health, which has been in regular contact with us since this illness was discovered among our students.

We regret the discomfort of those students who experienced the virus, and are glad that they have recovered. No one likes to be sick, and we will continue to monitor this episode and act appropriately for the safety of our community, following all of the guidelines of the R.I. Department of Health and their head epidemiologist even though there every likelihood that the initial norovirus has been contained and the incubation contagious period has passed.


Ronald K. Machtley