Watch CBS News

Northwestern student says he was hit by norovirus outbreak, and it sent him to ER

Northwestern student says he had to go to ER after catching norovirus in outbreak
Northwestern student says he had to go to ER after catching norovirus in outbreak 02:16

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) -- Like any other college student looking to save a buck, Northwestern University student Micah Sandy came to Big Wig Tacos & Burritos near campus for their $1 burrito deal.

"Normally I get dining hall food," said Sandy, "but I thought that normally, those burritos are over 10 bucks - so I'd treat myself for the one day."

Soon afterward, Sandy was suffering from a gastrointestinal illness.

"I felt sick, and it just worsened," he said. "I ended up going to immediate care - the student health center - which is where I found out I was the fifth person they saw with stomach-related issues."

What Sandy didn't know is that he was infected with norovirus – a virus that is sometimes called the "stomach flu," but is unrelated to and has nothing to do with influenza. Norovirus is spread via contaminated surfaces, food, and water.

"Someone with norovirus uses their bare hands, unwashed, to prepare food," University of Illinois Chicago epidemiologist Dr. Katrine Wallace said earlier this week.

Indeed Sandy was not the only one. It was unclear as of late Friday how many people were affected, but the Evanston Department of Health and Human Services called it a norovirus outbreak – and they have linked it to the Big Wig Tacos & Burritos at 950 Church St. in downtown Evanston.

Big Wig Tacos & Burritos told us in part that they were "not certain that the outbreak originated at [their] restaurant." But the restaurant chain added that they are taking measures nevertheless at their Evanston location, and are working with the Evanston health department on the investigation.

The full statement from Big Wig was as follows:

"We want to address recent reports of a norovirus outbreak linked to our Evanston Location. Understanding that norovirus outbreaks are more common in settings like colleges and universities, we want to emphasize our commitment to the health and well-being of our patrons and staff.

"While there have been reported cases, we are not certain that the outbreak originated at our restaurant. Prior to the event, the Evanston Health Department completed a routine health inspection and found no issues with our establishment. Nevertheless, we are taking immediate and comprehensive measures to address the situation. We are taking extra steps to thoroughly clean and sanitize, with a particular focus on areas that may be susceptible to the transmission of viruses.

"In collaboration with local health authorities, we are actively participating in the investigation to determine the source and extent of the outbreak. Our staff members are being closely monitored for symptoms, and no staff member has shown signs of symptoms.

"If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us directly on our Facebook Page. We are committed to keeping our community informed and appreciate your understanding during these challenging times."

The norovirus can cause symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. But for Sandy, it got serious.

"I was too tired to even move from my bed," said Sandy. "The dehydration sent me to the ER Monday."

It forced him to miss assignments, class, and project deadlines – and his Thanksgiving plans.

"When you have norovirus, you can't prepare food without it being a risk to the people who eat the food you prepare," Sandy said. "I wouldn't wish that upon my worst enemy, so I'm just staying away from preparing food."

But he is thankful to be OK.

The Evanston Department of Health and Human Services said Friday night that they are still asking people to reach out to them if they ate at Big Wig Tacos & Burritos during the Saturday event.

Everyone who dined at Big Wig Tacos & Burritos in Evanston on Saturday, Nov. 18, was asked to complete this questionnaire, regardless of whether they got sick.  

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.