Starting last Wednesday evening, dozens of Yale Law School students have fallen ill, reporting vomiting, nausea and other gastrointestinal-related symptoms similar to those of the norovirus infection, according to administrators at the law school. The cause of the illness is still under investigation, said Janet Conroy, Yale Law director of public affairs. In the last few days, the Yale University Office of Facilities deep-cleaned all public spaces within the law school building and Baker Hall to prevent the illness’s further spread, she added.
In an email sent to the law school community on Friday morning, Yale Law School Dean Robert Post advised students experiencing symptoms to stay at home and seek medical assistance at Yale Health. In a subsequent message sent to the school on Sunday morning, Post wrote that the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the New Haven Board of Health are collaborating on a survey which will be sent to the law school community early this week to investigate the illness. In his email, Post encouraged those who are feeling sick to respond to the survey.
Alexandra Francis LAW ’18 told the News that a number of the sick students had eaten sandwiches catered by the Law School dining hall at lunchtime on Tuesday, Oct. 27. Several first-year law school students suspect the outbreak may be linked to the sandwiches, Francis added.
On Saturday, the News obtained an email thread sent on Oct. 29 and 30, which records the reaction of several law students to the illness. Some students speculated that the emergence of disease could be the result of food poisoning.
“Most, but not all, of [the first-year students who experienced symptoms] ate sandwiches catered by the dining hall during Tuesday lunch events,” one first-year student wrote in the email exchange. “That’s all that I know. Nothing in this email should be construed to imply a causal theory for students’ experiences.”
Administrators at the school said it is too early to tell what may have caused the illness. It remains under investigation.
In his Friday email, Post referred to the illness as “a suspected occurrence of a norovirus” — a highly contagious gastrointestinal infection whose symptoms include vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. He added that tests at Yale Health to identify the illness are ongoing.
“Public areas of the law school, including those in Baker Hall, have been sanitized following guidelines provided by the city department of health and Yale Health Services, and that deep cleaning process has continued over the weekend,” Post wrote in the Sunday email.
Representatives from Yale Health did not respond to several requests for comment.
Maria Bouffard, director of emergency management at Yale, said the illness has not yet been identified and that the exact number of infected students is only known by Yale Health officials. She added that no new cases of infection were reported this past weekend.
“[The fact] that we haven’t had any additional reports of illness over the weekend leads me to believe that we have done very good job in containing [the infection],” Bouffard said.
Conroy said the school could not tell the exact number of students who fell ill, as it is possible that some sick students did not report their illness or visit Yale Health.
In an email to the News, Francis estimated that over 30 first-year students have been affected by the outbreak and that a number of second- and third-year law students have likely also been impacted.
Francis said she had heard of others getting sick since the first wave of infection last Wednesday and Thursday, adding that she was pleased by the response of the law school administration to the situation.
University administrators alerted graduate and professional students by email to a norovirus-like illness with similar symptoms in February 2013.