Students across Oxford are experiencing virus-like symptoms which have been linked to the Mansfield College Ball, which took place last Saturday.
Mansfield Ball President Anna Ploszajski said, “We have had reports from a minority of students of virus-like effects like vomiting and diarrhoea.”
The college’s main site Junior Dean Claire Palmer emailed students on Monday, stating, “We have had a number of reports today regarding students (Main Site and Off-site) feeling unwell with a suspected virus.”
On Tuesday, a further email was sent around students by Palmer, saying, “Since the email below was sent last night, the College has been in contact with the Environmental Health and Public Health Authorities. Environmental Health has requested that all students who have experienced symptoms in the last few days contact their GPs so that samples can be taken (and the guilty organisms readily identified).”
The Ball President told Cherwell, “There have been allegations of food poisoning. It appears to be the seafood bar that has come under questioning.”
She stressed however that the causes of the illness remain unclear, saying, “Mansfield College are carrying out a full investigation into the possible cause of the illness and until the investigation is complete, I am unable to offer a suggestion as to what has brought on the symptoms.”
She suggested that the seafood bar may not have been responsible for subsequent illnesses, saying, “Some people who got ill ate at the seafood bar, but others who got ill didn’t eat there.”
She added, “This unfortunate incident should not, and will not, belittle the achievement of what has been the culmination of almost two years of preparation. The event has consistently been trumpeted as unquestionably the most successful ball in Mansfield’s history.”
One Mansfield student told Cherwell, “At the moment there is no confirmation of this being food poisoning as a result of the ball or if people have just caught a virus from each other. I don’t think it is as straightforward as ‘food poisoning at the ball’ because as someone who was there and enjoyed (with all of my friends) all the food on offer there, neither I nor any of my friends or anyone I have spoken with have contracted this lurgy.”
Another noted, “A lot of college are ill; no one’s really sure what the mystery lurgy is, although it striking so soon after the ball seems to indicate there’s some causal link. A lot of people have Norovirus-y symptoms, so we think it could be that someone came to the ball carrying it. Now people seem to be catching it off housemates/people in the same accommodation block.”
The Queen’s College Welfare Officer Mark Holmes has confirmed that students at his College are suffering from the same illness. He told Cherwell on Tuesday, “A number of students from Queen’s have come down with sickness and diarrhoea since Saturday evening, with most recovering by now…As far as I am aware all the students who are ill were part of the group who attended Mansfield Ball.”
Students at St Anne’s are also claiming that they are suffering from food poisoning. One St Anne’s student, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “In St Anne’s there have been at least a dozen cases that I know of, but there’s likely to be more.
“I don’t think anyone has been hospitalised but everyone who has had it has been pretty much bed ridden for a day. I fully intend to be chasing Mansfield up for a full refund if I can get it. I believe our JCR President has sent an email on our behalf and I’ll be interested to see what Mansfield Ball committee come back with.”
St Anne’s JCR president Oscar Boyd sent an email to the Mansfield Ball Committee, alerting them to illness within the College. He stated, “Following a splendid ball, I’m sorry to inform you that there has been a bout of food poisoning at St Anne’s with numerous people who attended the ball severely affected. While I know this is not the fault of anyone on your committee, those affected have been confined to their beds due to sickness since yesterday afternoon and have been inconvenienced as a result. I hope you will be able to talk to your suppliers and offer some compensation to all those affected.
“Again, I’m sorry to have to contact you like this after what was otherwise a fantastic ball, but it is a serious matter and should be dealt with appropriately.”
Physicist Tiber Karadag told Cherwell, “My symptoms kicked in at around 2am on Monday, so roughly 24 hours after the ball. I think the symptoms definitely point towards food poisoning. I don’t think it is the Norovirus, as people who I spent Sunday evening with would be showing symptoms by now.”
Karadag concluded, “I think the least the Mansfield Ball Committee could do is to cover the cost of toilet paper used in college the past few days!”
Third-year Mansfield lawyer David Lukic had a positive experience at the Atlantis-themed ball. He told Cherwell, “Although our crew were seemingly made seasick from a mysterious illness, the treasures that we plundered from the lost city made the adventure a success. YARR!”
Mansfield student Thomas Adlam pointed out that not everyone who ate at the seafood bar has fallen victim to the bug, saying, “I ate at least a dozen oysters and was completely fine. In fact the only thing I consumed all night beside one hog roast burger at the start was seafood. I feel 100%.”