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Number of CMU students sickened at coffee shop tops 40

Ben Schmitt
| Friday, April 29, 2016, 11:42 a.m.

More than 40 Carnegie Mellon University students became sick after eating at an on-campus coffee shop this week, according to the Allegheny County Health Department.

La Prima Espresso closed its CMU location Friday for cleaning because the students and two employees became ill after eating there.

“The decision was made by CMU Dining Services and La Prima Espresso in consultation with the Allegheny County Health Department,” CMU said in a statement regarding the closure.

La Prima, at CMU's Wean Hall, normally is closed on weekends and is scheduled to reopen Monday.

Melissa Wade, a spokeswoman for the health department, said an investigation continues into the cause of the illnesses. She said employees were among those sickened with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

“We are excluding food workers from the facility until their symptoms are cleared,” she said in an emailed statement to the Tribune-Review. “They are thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces as recommended.”

Mike Bogdan, director of operations for La Prima, said that its food, such as soup and sandwiches, comes pre-packaged from an outside vendor. He declined to name the vendor.

Contacted Friday, Bogdan referred to a statement and declined further comment.

“As a member of the CMU community, La Prima takes this matter very seriously,” he said. “We are currently working with university and Allegheny County Health Department officials to resolve this matter quickly. We look forward to once again offering a full menu of high quality services and products to our CMU community, students and customers.”

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a UPMC infectious disease specialist, said the students possibly contracted norovirus, which is highly contagious.

“This is not surprising given how contagious norovirus is, how concentrated a population a college campus is and with the heightened awareness that is occurring through the media and enhanced case-finding,” Adalja said.

CMU asked students experiencing gastrointestinal distress to contact its University Health Services at 412-268-2157.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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