Students panic over rumors of food poisoning, administration points to virus

Starting around dinnertime and late into the night of Tuesday, Feb. 26, students found themselves battling for space in public bathrooms due to extreme flu-like symptoms. As students who had avoided what has been coined McVirus, McPlague, and Glaropocolypse wandered into empty classrooms the next morning, wild rumors began to circulate about the origin of the illness.

21 people had been diagnosed with gastroenteritis as of 12:30 PM on Wednesday, according to Simone Lindsay of the Carroll Hospital Center, although she could not identify how many of them were McDaniel students. At press time, there was no updated information available. Campus Safety, U.N.I. Urgent Care, and ExpressCare were unavailable for comment.

Many students initially believed that the cause was a widespread case of food poisoning. Erin Brown, a freshman residing in Whiteford, said that the sounds of vomiting could be heard up and down the halls throughout Tuesday night.

“I heard that if you ate the beef and potatoes, you would be sick,” she explained. “Sure enough, four of my friends were sick that night.”

At 10:45 AM, a message was sent to the McDaniel community announcing that the outbreak was a case of gastroenteritis, a virus.

Susan Glore, Director of the Wellness Center, emphasized, “It is absolutely not related to Glar. Technically one person could go home, get a virus, and sneeze [to cause this].”

However, students remained skeptical even after the email about gastroenteritis was sent. Jason Stein, who began to exhibit symptoms at 2:30PM on Tuesday, stated, “Even if the illness we are experiencing is caused by a virus, as the letter that went out to all students said, that virus is sometimes passed through food that has not been prepared properly. So, given the amount of cases and the timing of those cases, I would say that this virus was definitely food-borne and something for which Sodexo should be held responsible.”

Junior Vicci Alexander, however, has a contrasting account of the virus: “I was admitted to the ER at approximately 6 p.m. [Tuesday], and since I hadn’t eaten anything in over 14 hours they completely ruled out food poisoning.” Alexander claimed that she had not eaten in Glar since Monday at lunch, ruling out the possibility of bad food that students have been concerned about.

“We live in such a close environment; it’s easy for a virus to spread,” explained Glore.

Among many theories, one anonymous student believes that it could have been spread through the swiping of ID cards outside of Glar. Common areas, such as bathrooms, classrooms, and dorms are also high risk areas for contracting the virus.

Gastroenteritis is highly contagious; according to The Mayo Clinic, the most common cause of the virus “is through contact with an infected person or ingestion of contaminated food or water.” They say that the virus is easily passed “through the fecal-oral route.”

An article on poses the possibility that gastroenteritis could be a norovirus: “Unlike influenza or other viruses that take ingesting hundreds of thousands of particles of the virus to get sick, it takes less that 20 norovirus particles to get hit with the illness.” Athough thorough hand washing will only help, it is still likely that if you come in contact with someone who is infected it will be passed on to you, the article explained.

Regardless of origin and severity of the outbreak, currently unaffected students can take preventative measures to remain well. A key strategy is to avoid sharing with affected students. Glore elaborates, “You know that book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? It probably tells you something about sharing. We’re telling you now: don’t share!”

Stay tuned for updates on the story as we get more information.


Updated Feb. 28, 4:30 PM

According to an article by WBALTV, “campus officials said 40 students became ill with gastroenteritis over…two days, and a few of them went to the emergency room on their own.” According to an unscientific poll conducted by the McDaniel Free Press, 61 people had responded that the virus affected them as of press time.

The college is very concerned and is continuing to offer support services.

Area Coordinator Michael Robbins posted on Facebook that “housekeeping will be checking and re-checking bathrooms…the dining facilities are cleaning tables constantly…and we also created a run of posters…on self-care.”

Rumors of food poisoning or Glar-related causes are still spreading around campus. Freshman Kirsten Coleman said “I saw a can that said kitchen cleaner on it and it had a hose going down under Rouzer, it started around 1 [a.m.] and probably stopped by 2:30 [a.m.].” Coleman observed this last night but said she did not know much about it. There is no confirmation that it was not a routine cleaning or an emergency sanitation.

Junior Lexi Jacobs is the only student at press time that the McDaniel Free Press was aware of being diagnosed with food poisoning.

“[Gastroenteritis] usually lasts at least 18 hours, but what I had was only a few hours. I passed out in the morning due to fatigue and weakness, but after staying in the hospital for about an hour my symptoms started to dissipate and I was able to get back on my feet.” At press time, there were no connections between Jacob’s case of food poisoning and food in Glar.

The administration continues to comfort the student body and claim that food poisoning is not to blame. Lieut. Joshua Bronson, emergency medical responder for McDaniel College Campus Safety posted on Facebook that he wants to “try to dispel any rumors about food poisoning which the hospital has told us it is not and that it is in fact a virus.”

The McDaniel Free Press is not claiming to know the cause of this virus that is affecting campus nor is it suggesting that it could be food poisoning or caused by Glar. All opinions stated in this article are the opinions of the sources quoted, and not necessarily of the McDaniel Free Press.


Feb. 28, 7:30 PM

According to Cheryl Knauer, Director of Media Relations, “I am not aware of any students who have been hospitalized. I do know that we have had students who have gone to the emergency room, including students who have gone there on their own. We have had students who have been transported to the hospital via ambulance and some of these students have unrelated health conditions that coupled with the virus have complicated their symptoms.”

The college is taking steps to prevent the further spread of the virus, as well as reach out to students who have been infected.

“Members of the Student Affairs staff are checking-in on students on-campus by going around to residence halls to make one-on-one contact with students. Our housekeeping staff is continuously cleaning railings, doorknobs, doors, etc., and cleaning residence hall bathrooms, as well stocking up on soap and disposable hand towels,” said Knauer. “In the foodservice area, staff are cleaning tables constantly and self-serve food utensils are being swapped out regularly for cleaning. Students are also being provided with boxed meals to those who are ill, so they can remain in their rooms. We also have posters and fliers on self-care put up around campus and the residence halls. We are still encouraging the campus community to be vigilant about hand washing and other wellness tips.”

Dean of Faculty Debbi Johnson-Ross has said that classes will be convening tomorrow as scheduled. The college is not aware of any classes that have been cancelled due to student illnesses.



16 Comments on "Students panic over rumors of food poisoning, administration points to virus"

  1. Just because people are getting the virus without having eaten anything in Glar NOW does not necessarily mean that the virus having originiated in Glar is a “rumor”. If it really only takes less than 20 norovirus particles to get you sick, I can imagine that something like improper hand-washing procedure (or something like that)cold have easily contributed to the spread of the virus in Glar first, especially given that the Mayo Clinic notes one of the most common causes of the virus is “contaminated food or water.” Jason is right– given the amount of cases and the timing of those cases, I’m pretty damn skeptical myself. Especially considering this exact same thing happened last year. Check out Jan. 27th, 2012 in your student email. There are some pretty surprising similarities.

    • Listen, this virus is going on around outside of just McDaniel (I graduated last year and it is in my hometown over an hour away!) so the students saying that it is without a doubt from Glar need to get a grip and give Glar a break. It is definitely not necessarily from Glar, so chill out!

  2. Jason Stein is a trained doctor?? I had no idea! Is this guy that commented above me a doctor? Nope. This is just knee jerk reaction blame. Of course everybody got sick with a highly contagious virus after they all were in a large room together for an hour. That’s how viruses work. The free press should stop publishing rumors as implied facts. Is the journalism class learning about tabloid journalism this week?

  3. Hey, Ryan! If you would like to write a piece about what you think the origin might be or similarities to last year, we would love that!

  4. Hey, Anon. Why don’t you stop criticizing the journalists for doing their jobs? They quoted someone else’s opinion. If they were implying facts, that would be found outside of a quote. If you know so much about journalism and journalistic standards, then you should reexamine your knowledge on news article structure.

    Every news story ever gets reactions from people affected. Blame the source, not the reporter. These are not implied facts, but merely a representation of the campus climate at the time of the story being posted.

    None of us are doctors, and neither are you. We’re all just trying to deal with this campus epidemic, so stop making people more miserable than they already are.

    Do something productive, like thank the housekeepers for cleaning up after us, or thank the Glar workers for risking their health while they serve us everyday for probably not enough pay.

    If you want to criticize the Free Press so bad, why don’t get off your lazy ass and join it? Write your own stories and then get off your high horse.

    • Honey, #1 I’m in more clubs than days of the week. #2 What makes you think I don’t already do that? I’d say most of McDaniel does. #3 I’m just ornary because I have crap traveling out both ends of my body #4 I just hate the blame mcdaniel first crowd that pops up anything big happens. I’ts embarassing

      • Charles FRACKIN Mullin | March 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm |

        Anon, first off, I don’t think the “honey” is necessary in your comment unless you always like to refer to all women sarcastically as “honey.” Then it would just be rude.

        Free Press is not in the business of publishing rumors. It is in the business of publishing stories. The story of this week are the rumors circulating about the source of the plague. Notice that Free Press has not taken any personal stance on the source plague at all, but, rather, has quoted other students and faculty on what they think the source might be. Everyone has different reasons.

        So no, this isn’t tabloid journalism even though you might think it is by using such a rhetorical label. This is reporting. This is interviewing. This is the collation of opinions into a focused piece.

        For that I congratulate the Free Press on a great piece and great coverage overall. Thank you.

  5. Hey all of you- Free Press Assistant Web Editor, here. Thanks for your comments, and I’d like to expand on some things you’ve all brought up.

    We love getting your comments, good or bad. Thank you for the feedback.

    We accept content from any member of the McDaniel College community. Send it to free You could write a letter to the editor, or even an actual commentary article. Or come to a meeting. You don’t need to have journalistic experience, because this is ultimately a learning opportunity for potential journalists, future writers, or even someone who wants a resume line. The Free Press can be whatever the McDaniel community wants it to be, but only if the community participates. For more information on how to get involved, check out this article:

  6. I’ve been told from people who were in the hospital that the doctor thanks that it originated from one source, and that it’s been spread since then. It’s also pretty sketchy that Glar was being cleaned out in the middle of the night last night- my window faces rouser, so I heard everything as people were going in and out. I think there’s something that the administration isn’t telling us, including why they refuse to cancel classes! Half the campus is sick, and the classes that I went to today were so small. Rather than forcing us to go out and expose ourselves to the virus, they should cancel classes and reschedule campus events, like the internship fair.

    • Emily Sanders | March 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm |

      Did you see this:

      “On Thursday, Rita Webster, general manager of the McDaniel College dining team in Glar, stated, “Today there was an inspection from the Carroll County Health Department (CCHD). They have to come in whenever there is an outbreak.””


      Wanna write an op-ed? I’d be willing to collaborate on it with you if that’d help get it out.

      • Maybe someone should go talk to Rita Webster (or someone in Glar) to quote someone who was actually working there when the clean-out happened.

  7. Hi Anon,

    I think you should probably review the definitions you’ve concocted for the following words because none of the ways in which you are using them are appropriate in this situation.:


    Jason Stein’s opinion was not treated as implied fact but as what it was, an opinion. A tabloid publishes fanciful creations that have little to no bearing on reality, a practice in which the McDaniel Free Press does not engage. Journalism is a profession with certain standards, standards which the Free Press staff works their asses off to achieve. This is a damn good article, especially for a college paper, that more than demonstrates how far the Free Press has come in the past few years in terms of journalistic professionalism and ethics. An article of this quality could be just as easily found in a paper of record. How about you spend less time trying to tear down other people’s work and spend more time reading the concluding stipulation included by this article’s authors:

    “The McDaniel Free Press is not claiming to know the cause of this virus that is affecting campus nor is it suggesting that it could be food poisoning or caused by Glar. All opinions stated in this article are the opinions of the sources quoted, and not necessarily of the McDaniel Free Press.”

    Please see the above comment by Jessica for more information.

  8. I love how the administration isn’t counting ER trips as hospitalization. This all stinks of something they’re not telling us. Bekah has a point. Classes should’ve been cancelled and a late-night, secret cleaning of Glar sends a rather poor message to the students. The school administration seems to care more about saving face than helping its students. Thankfully, at least ResLife and the Wellness Center are trying. I was at the hospital last night and the nursing staff said they’d lost count of the amount of McDaniel kids who had been brought it because of the virus.

  9. I know of at least one class being canceled because so few people showed up. Classes really should have been canceled yesterday, at the very least. Anyone who wasn’t sick Tuesday night was playing nurse to everyone who was – no one was in any condition to learn.

  10. What the heck??? Why hasn’t the school closed due to this?

    When I heard the rumor that this illness originated from GLAR food (mind you, I heard it on facebook; I graduated from McDaniel back in December) I wasn’t surprised: there were times when food workers told me that if it were up to them they would never be serving McDaniel students the crap that GLAR gives them. Of course, if this is caused by a virus and not food poisoning then I can’t really say.

    I hope everyone gets well soon.

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