Students in residence seek answers after outbreak

by | Jan 20, 2017 | Campus News, North

Chris Besik
Arts Editor

Humber College students are concerned and confused over the hospitalization of 30 North campus residents last night.

Toronto Public Health is investigating the cause of a total 77 reported cases of illness involving symptoms of vomiting and abdominal pain.  

Students are split on whether the cause is related to food served on campus or the common flu.

Connor Harrison, a first-year fitness and health promotion student, was one of the first to experience symptoms.

“I was one of the first cases. I started feeling sick at 3 a.m. yesterday. I ate the burger (in the residence cafeteria) around 8 to 9 and I felt sick at 3a.m., I woke up choking on my own vomit.”

Connor and a number of other students were transported to hospital in a paramedic bus last night.

“I had a burger in the caf and now Humber is trying to say it’s a virus or something but it’s obviously food poisoning,” said Harrison.

Harrison’s parents both took the day off work to travel an hour and a half to pick him up and he is missing a mandatory class.

“The bus had about 14 people and me and another guy were on stretchers. Then there were too many of us, so they started sending people to other hospitals around Toronto,” said Harrison.


A sign in the lobby of R Building notifying residents of an outbreak of illness in the building.

A sign in the lobby of R Building notifying residents of an outbreak of illness in the building. (Sarah Watson/Genia Kuypers)

Kathy Whitfield Vukobrat, mother of Michelle Vukobrat a first year radio broadcasting student on residence is annoyed at the situation and believes it is the cafeteria’s fault.

“She could barely walk to the car. It was nonstop and painful,” said Vukobrat.

“You have to take a meal plan and they have to eat at this dirty little cafeteria or they have to eat fast food,” she said.

Residence requires students to purchase a mandatory meal plan ranging in price for the school year from large at $3,400, to medium at $2,850 and regular at $2,350.

“They force this meal plan on you and they have a responsibility,” said Whitfield.

 “You expect your kids to be safe and it’s such a letdown when they aren’t.”

Saige Eitman a creative photography student believes it is food poisoning as well.

“I had the flu right before break but it doesn’t spread like that, 30 people would not have been bussed off if it were just the flu,” said Eitman.

“Last year I know that there were some iffy things with the caf […] I know that nothing really changed, so I’m not surprised something happened here.”

The school has released a statement listing the symptoms being experienced. With Toronto Public Health still investigating as of mid-afternoon Friday, they say the cause of the illness is still unknown.

Hunter Weeks, an interior decorating student who lives on campus, has also been experiencing symptoms, but has not consumed any food from campus since she has been back.

“Its most likely the flu for the most part, some people probably do have food poisoning but it’s probably the flu,” said Weeks.

The residents witnessed scenes from an epidemic, as sick students were loaded onto busses late last night.

“It was a little freaky cause everyone was wearing masks and it kind of looked like a zombie apocalypse,” says Weeks.

Several students commented that they thought it was probably not food poisoning as it is flu season.

Sam Tilley, a Fire Services student said he saw workers cleaning the hallways and common rooms.

“I doubt that it was the cafe food because this happened later into the night, I feel like if it was the cafe food there would have been a more immediate reaction if it was food poisoning,” says Tilley.

“I have some friends who aren’t staying in residence, they are also sick so it may not be the food, says Atakan Sec, a Media Communication student.

The school’s residence also put up a message in the foyer of the building warning students of the health concerns and advising them to take precautions with their health and hygiene.

The school is continuing to monitor the situation and is offering support to any students who may be experiencing symptoms. They continue to encourage students to engage in practicing good hygiene.

Anyone experiencing symptoms, is encouraged to seek medical assistance as appropriate.

Non-emergency health services will be available to students, faculty and staff at North campus, 2nd floor, Student Wellness Centre until 4:30 p.m. today. Anyone experiencing worsening symptoms should seek emergency medical support at the hospital.

With files from Jane Burke, Elisabetta Bianchini, Corey Martinez, Jefferson Marshall, Sarah Watson