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‘Never seen anything like it,’ stomach sickness spreads at Hampden-Sydney College

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HAMPDEN-SYDNEY, Va. -- In an effort to stop the spread of a nasty stomach bug impacting around 300 students at Hampden-Sydney College, the school has decided to shut down until Monday.

The college has around 1,050 students currently enrolled.

"Classes are cancelled and administrative offices will close," Hampden-Sydney College posted on Facebook. "Classes will resume and offices will reopen at 8:30 AM on Monday, February 2, weather permitting."

While the dorms will remain open, the library, fitness center and pool will close.

"All athletic related activities, including Saturday’s basketball game, all sport practices, weight room lifts, etc. are cancelled until Monday, weather permitting," the school said. "Saturday's Admissions Open House has been cancelled."

There were just a small number of students on campus late Thursday afternoon when CBS 6 was there.

"I've never seen anything like this," said student, Ben Jenkins.

School spokesman, Thomas Shomo said the school has stepped up cleaning and sanitation of all community areas. However, right now they do not know exactly where the virus started.

"They believe it is a Norovirus, but that is not a scientific determination because testing is underway to determine exactly what it is," said Shomo.

Students who were still on campus Thursday said several of their friends caught the stomach bug.

"My friend got really sick, he was throwing up and he had real bad stomach cramps, he was pale white," said student Thayer Hall.

Hampden-Sydney College officials said Wednesday that 100 students, faculty and staff members were being treated for the bug. The illnesses were first reported Tuesday night as students came down with symptoms of gastroenteritis, which include diarrhea and vomiting.

The number of students infected increased rapidly by Wednesday afternoon, and that 100 students had been treated at Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville or the Hampden-Sydney Wellness Center.

"The College is in consultation with both Centra and the Virginia Department of Health, Piedmont District, and has taken every precaution to contain the spread of the virus. Classes and other activities are continuing normally," Thomas H. Shomo, Hampden-Sydney's Director of Marketing and Communications, said in a news release.

Shomo stated that "all indications are that this is an easily spread viral infection."

Additionally, officials said housekeeping staff have sanitized high-traffic areas in residence halls and other buildings on campus. Students are also being provided cleaning supplies to sanitize their rooms.

The viruses that cause gastroenteritis, including Norovirus, are very contagious, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The virus is spread through contact with infected persons or contaminated surfaces.

Hampden-Sydney, the 10th oldest college in the U.S., is a private liberal arts college for men.