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Twenty-eight students at Michigan State University in East Lansing have become sick with an unknown gastrointestinal illness. The students were treated at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan, for symptoms include vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Most of the students have since been released, and no one who remains in the hospital is in serious condition.

This outbreak is the second major health scare on campus this academic year. Last September, several students were sickened by E. coli bacteria found in iceberg lettuce.

While outbreaks are almost impossible to predict, they can be minimized or even prevented by taking simple precautions. The most important thing you can do to avoid spreading illness is hand washing. Experts recommend using warm water and soap, and rubbing your hands vigorously together for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to get the entire surface of your hand, including your fingernails. Rinse well with a clean towel, and use the towel to turn off the faucet. Alcohol-based sanitizers can be just as effective if used properly. The CDC recommends using a gel that is about 60% alcohol.

Although hand washing is a simple and mundane task, it is crucial to fighting the spread of disease. Take this easy step to protect yourself and those you love.

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