Unique circumstance calls for unique protocol

Taylor Rocca, Omega Contributor  Ω

Seven TRU students were encouraged to stay away from campus from January 16 to 18 after coming in contact with the norovirus at a student conference in Victoria, B.C.

During the Canadian University Press (CUP) 74th national conference there was a reported outbreak of the virus.

The seven students were in Victoria as part of an eight-person delegation representing TRU student newspaper, The Omega.

Two TRU students fell ill before returning to Kamloops.

The norovirus typically spreads through contaminated food and water, but can also be passed from person to person, according to Health Link BC.

Apart from direct consumption of contaminated food, people can become infected through contact with a contaminated surface or someone who is infected.

In responding to the situation, Thompson Rivers University was in communication with Interior Health services, the TRU Advancement Office, the TRU head of marketing, the TRU Office of Student and Judicial Affairs and Occupational Health and Safety according to Duane Seibel, Manager of Student and Judicial Affairs at TRU.

“It was an unusual circumstance,” Seibel said, “there wasn’t one [TRU conference student] who didn’t come in contact with [the virus].”

Because of the unusual circumstance, there was no applicable established health and safety protocol on TRU campus.

As a result, the university, in consultation with Interior Health services, established the unique protocol to respond to the equally unique circumstance.

TRU dean of arts Dr. Michael Mehta gave the final approval for the decision, said Seibel.

Since the outbreak was first reported in Victoria, Andy Veilleux has been tracking the spread of the virus.

Veilleux is an editor at The Muse, a CUP newspaper at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

As of Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. 152 students have been reported ill from 52 different student newspapers across the country, according to Veilleux. Only four papers are unaccounted for.

“I do not find the quarantine surprising, although I do find it surprising that TRU is the only school I have heard enforce it,” Veilleux said.

“With the number (of sick) now climbing up over 150 students sick over the course of the conference, and some only getting sick days after the initial outbreak, the school’s positions seems more logical,” Veilleux said.

Veilleux’s record is available at www.andyveilleux.com/nash74-sick-numbers/.

Devan Tasa was one of the TRU students that attended the conference in Victoria.

Apart from attending classes at TRU, Tasa also lives on campus.

Despite not contracting the illness, he was not allowed to return to his quad-unit until he had been cleared to do so by the university.

“After a long time away from home, I was not happy to hear that I could not go back until the university could be sure that I wouldn’t infect other people in the residence,” Tasa said.

“I do understand why it was done. The university wanted to make sure that nobody would be harmed by the norovirus, especially when it could be stopped at the source.”

“When you go for a long trip, you don’t expect to be told at the end you can’t go home again,” Tasa said.

On the other side of the country, students who contracted the illness received no official recommendations from their respective schools.

Bryannah James contracted the norovirus while attending the conference in Victoria.

James is a student at St. Thomas University and the sports editor at The Brunswickan, a CUP newspaper in Fredericton, N.B.

“The only feedback we had from our university was from the head of the journalism department,” James said, “he was more concerned with us getting home.”

“We weren’t told we couldn’t return back to classes,” James said, “and most of us returned after the 24 – 48 hour recovery period.”