I’m in an epidemic!

Sort of.

ReachOut is a Columbia College service group that goes to New Orleans every spring break to help with the rebuilding effort. I went last year and had a blast so I was even more excited for this one. 43 students, 6 chaperones, and two bus drivers departed from Chicago at 1pm Saturday, March 21st. We arrived at Camp Hope in Louisiana around 9am Sunday, March 22nd. Between those 20 hours something sinister happened.

Beginning Sunday night, ReachOuters began complaining of stomach pain and nausea.  They both vomited and had diarrhea. Shortly after, several other ReachOut members began complaining of similar symptoms. No one really knew how bad it was until I was awoken at 2am this morning and asked how I was feeling. Soon we found out that almost a third of the group was now sick, with more people complaining about the initial symptoms. By the time 6:45am rolled around, half of ReachOut was reached out.

We’ve just been told that a Louisiana State Health Official will be interviewing us around 2pm today. We will have to tell him or her what we ate in the past 48 hours and if we’ve felt sick in the past 24. We are  also being moved out of Camp Hope and into a hotel in downtown New Orleans.

As of now, victims are experiencing

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stomach cramping
  • fever/chills
  • exhaustion

We’ve quarantined the sick off into a room. It makes your stomach churn just walking by. You can smell the vomit and bile everywhere. On the bright side, the member who first reported being sick has made a recovery and is now walking around and in good spirits.

The interesting part of this whole ordeal is that no one can really discern what is causing the sickness. At first it was a definite food poisoning , because the first two to show signs had the same meal for lunch. Then we were told it was the contaminated water supply. But all of us have drunk the water and a little more than half have been affected. We’ve also been told it was a contagious disease, because those who were originally helping the sick soon became sick themselves. I’m sure we’ll have more details after the health official gets here, but until then we’ve been told to be extracautious.


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