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A virus known for causing havoc on cruise ships and in nursing homes is stalking the halls of academe at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.

What is believed to be a Norwalk-type virus has struck at least 100 people on the campus of Mount Allison and in the surrounding university town of Sackville.

It forced officials on Friday to close public buildings and cancel extracurricular activities until Monday.

University spokesperson Sheila Blagrave said about 40 students went to outpatient services at the local hospital on Thursday and Friday to be treated for dehydration.

But she said no students were admitted for further treatment of the suspected gastrointestinal bug, which can cause serious problems in people with depressed immune systems.

"This kind of thing happens all the time all over Canada," said Ms. Blagrave.

"A public health official told me that in New Brunswick there have been five day cares where it has happened. One doesn't want to speculate, but it could be this is a flu that will be hitting other areas and has already hit other areas."

Norwalk is a persistent gastrointestinal virus that causes nausea, projectile vomiting, explosive diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, fatigue and sometimes a low-grade fever.

People often describe Norwalk-like illnesses as stomach flu or 24-hour flu, but the viruses have no relationship with the flu, a respiratory virus better known as influenza.

It has hobbled some hospitals and nursing homes and sent cruise ships back to port carrying scores of sick passengers.

Dr. Denis Allard, district medical health official for Moncton, said public health officials are not ready to say the bug is definitely Norwalk or a Norwalk-type.

He said stool samples are being tested for bacteria and viruses, but he said the outbreak bears the distinctive traits of Norwalk.

"We already have quite a few people who have started to recover within 36 hours of starting to be ill, so it is of short duration," Allard said in an interview.

"It is this clinical picture of the symptoms and the short duration that makes us think this is a Norwalk virus."

The virus is spread between people through fecal-oral contact, Dr. Allard said.

Public health officials examined the university's dining hall, but reported no problems.

The university has closed its public buildings and cancelled weekend activities to prevent people from gathering in crowds where the infection could be spread.

The university postponed athletic events with other schools in the region, including its football game at Saint Mary's University in Halifax on Friday.

Stephen McClatchie, a vice-president at Mount Allison, issued a letter to the public that says students began getting sick on Thursday.

"We are continuing to care for students, providing as much information as we can to them and to their parents about how to prevent further spread of the stomach flu-like symptoms," Mr. McClatchie said.

Earlier this month, 25 new cases of a gastrointestinal illness were reported at the University of Alberta, which brought the number of people who fell ill since classes began there in September to 115.

Public health officials in Alberta believe the outbreak is now under control at that university.

Mount Allison's website says it has a capped enrolment of about 2,250 full-time students.

Erica Hendry, president of the Mount Alison student council, told the CBC that the university acted quickly to deal with the illness on campus.

"I was made aware right from the get-go that people were getting sick and what they (the university and health officials) were doing," she said.

"They've been very eager to respond."