COLLEGEVILLE, Pa., (CBS) — Montgomery County health officials are still trying to determine the cause of a stomach illness outbreak at Ursinus College that sickened more than 100 students, faculty and staff.

Officials say a total of 185 students have reached out to Ursinus College’s Wellness Center to report symptoms of stomach infection.

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Ursinus College is cancelling classes for the rest of Thursday and for Friday, out of what they’re calling “an abundance of caution.”

As of Thursday afternoon, officials say Ursinus was aware of 153 ill students, staff, and faculty, 30 of whom sought treatment at local hospitals and an urgent care center. An earlier report of a higher number of people sickened included some who were double counted because they first reported to the College Wellness Center before being treated at local hospitals and an urgent care center, according to officials.

“The increase in the number of people experiencing symptoms between last night and today is not surprising, given the incubation period typical for gastrointestinal illnesses,” said Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, Interim Medical Director of the Montgomery County Health Department in a news release. “Students or staff who have experienced symptoms may call the Health Department at 610-278-5117 to share information to aid in the investigation,” said Arkoosh.

Arkoosh also encouraged any students or staff currently experiencing symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain to be particularly careful about dehydration and to seek medical care.

Out of an abundance of caution, all classes will be canceled for the remainder of Thursday and for Friday.

The school and Montgomery County health officials trying to determine how students, faculty and staff were sickened starting Tuesday night.

Officials say it is unknown at this time whether the illness is food-borne or transmitted by person-to-person contact.

Routinely, it is recommended to test for both bacteria and viruses when persons present with these symptoms, according to officials. Testing results could take up to a week.

College students or staff who experiences symptoms can contact the Ursinus College Wellness Center (wellness@ursinus.edu ) or come in during regular hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. UC EMS will be available 24/7 for assistance; contact Campus Safety at 610-409-3333, according to officials.

“The best way to prevent the spread GI illness is to practice good hand-hygiene and to thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces in common areas,” said Dr. Arkoosh.

In the meantime, Ursinus, thanks to local businesses, provided food for students in the Athletic Center. Junior Ian, with a sandwich and coffee for breakfast, says he was startled to hear so many got sick but says it could have been worse.

“On some level I do know that everyone is going to be okay. I’m not scared and I have faith in my college.”

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Among those lending a hand to Ursinus, Collegeville Italian Bakery, as owner Steve Carcarey says they helped feed the lunch crowd on campus.

“Six hundred assorted hoagies for the student body,” said Carcarey.

He says they try to have something for everyone.

“Italians, they have turkeys, vegetarian, they have roast beef hoagies,” said Carcarey.

Carcarey says the college is good to businesses in town, so:

“I’m glad that Collegeville came together to help the student body,” he said.

Wawa and Wegmans delivered food to campus, the college says five pizza places in town welcomed students for dinner.

“Ursinus’ first priority is the health and well-being of our students,” said President Brock Blomberg in a news release. “We will continue to work closely with officials from the Montgomery County Health Department and follow their recommendations. In addition, Ursinus couldn’t be more grateful for the outpouring of support it has received from the surrounding community to help us support our students.”

 

 

 

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KYW’s Tim Jimenez and Jim Melwert contributed to this report.