George Mason University visiting students sickened

Emergency officials responded to George Mason early Thursday morning. Photo: John Gonzalez/ABC7

More than three dozen students staying at George Mason University during a summer camp program fell ill Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Fairfax City and County Fire officials say that they responded to the George Mason campus early Thursday morning on reports of the sick students, who are participating in a week-long program affiliated with the Congressional Awards Foundation.

Health officials suspect that the students are suffering from viral gastroenteritis. They've sent samples to a laboratory to test if the source of the illness is norovirus.

"It was like dehydration," student Allison Yamamoto said of students who were reportedly up all night with stomach problems. "You're kind of dizzy and you have to run to the bathroom."

The Centers for Disease Control says that several different viruses, including norovirus, can contribute to the development of viral gastroenteritis. An official cause for the illness has not yet been determined by the Fairfax County Health Department.

"At this point, we think it was primarily an episode of person-to-person transmission spread from one individual in the group becoming ill from maybe another individual outside the group," Fairfax County Health Department spokesman Dr. Peter Troell said.

At least 14 students were taken for treatment at area hospitals Thursday, officials say, on what was to be the last day of the program for the 80 participants. Seven students were transported to George Washington Hospital on Wednesday night as well.

Officials tell ABC 7 that the students, some of whom traveled from outside the D.C. area to attend the camp, ate at a banquet on Wednesday night and at a restaurant on Capitol Hill before going to a Washington Nationals game.

Some of the students began getting sick at and on their way back to the dorms from the baseball game.

"Everyone was sick," student Tanner Setkowski said. "Everyone on the bus ride back from the baseball game was puking."

Many of the students are quarantined inside the dormitory where they're staying, while officials say others have been either taken to area hospitals for treatment or being treated on the scene.

The head of the group tells the Nationals, though, that they don't believe anything at the ballpark, including food, contributed to the students' illness.