The University of Connecticut’s Student Health and Wellness responded yesterday to the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in an email to students, advising them of the university’s response plan.
The 2019-nCoV strain originated in the Wuhan region of China, with nearly 8,000 confirmed cases and 170 deaths. There are also four U.S. states with confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV and 36 states that have people under investigation.
“No one in Connecticut has been diagnosed with coronavirus to date, but we want to ensure that our students, faculty and staff know where to find information about UConn’s preparation, response measures, and relevant travel policies,” the email from the university said. “The Medical Care division of UConn Student Health and Wellness is closely following updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and working in collaboration with the local and state departments of public health.”
UConn encourages students and faculty who have flu-like symptoms to contact their healthcare provider if they could have been exposed to the 2019-nCoV strain.
“Symptoms may appear 2-14 days following 2019-nCoV exposure. It is unclear how easily the virus is transmitted, however, the CDC considers the immediate health risk to the general population from the 2019-nCoV low at this time,” the email said.
If students are concerned about their health and have questions, an information line is available to students at (860) 486-8987. The advice nurse is available 24/7 at (860) 486-4700.
“The coronavirus information line and after hours nurse advice line is available through UConn Student Health and Wellness Medical Care. This service is supported for students on the UConn Storrs campus, but has been extended to students on the regional campuses who have questions or concerns about 2019-nCoV. This is an advice and educational resource,” said Ellyssa Eror, medical director of UConn Student Health and Wellness.
The email did not address students who may have returned from China for the spring semester, but UConn assures that they are taking all preventative measures necessary.
“The CDC issued very clear guidelines on screening individuals for 2019-nCoV. We are adhering to those guidelines and have had no suspected cases of 2019-nCoV,” Eror said.
Dr. Alise Fallicciardi, associate professor of emergency medicine and medical director of the emergency room at UConn Health, said the 2019-nCoV is not a health concern for Connecticut at the moment.
“In general the novel coronavirus from China poses 0 percent risk to students in Connecticut at the moment,” Fallicciardi said. “There have been five confirmed cases of coronavirus as of this morning and all of those five cases have been to the Wuhan region of China.”
The virus was declared an international public health emergency by the World Health Organization yesterday after seeing the virus move from one person to another.
“Coronaviruses in general are viruses that cause the common cold, so about 30% of the common cold that people get are caused by coronaviruses,” Fallicciardi said. “The coronavirus we are hearing about in the news right now is a novel coronavirus seemed to have originated in the Wuhan region of China and the thought is they came out of these markets with different animals and that is where the outbreak jumped from animals to humans and this is a new one that has never been seen before.”
Fallicciardi said students still need to practice good hygiene given that influenza is also a significant health concern at this time of year.
“In general students should practice good hand hygiene, try not to touch their face in public, and make sure students stay home if they’re feeling sick,” Fallicciardi said. “But to be clear the novel coronavirus is not a threat to students at UConn or students of Connecticut in general.”
UConn Health has been screening patients for 2019-nCoV and are prepared in the case someone screens positive.
“If patients screen positive, based on present CDC guidelines, we put them in a room with airborne precautions where air cannot escape,” Fallicciardi said. “We then call the CDC and have a test brought to the hospital. The test has to go back to the CDC for results, and the process can take days.”
The CDC has listed confirmed cases in 22 different countries and four U.S. states, with updates as they come in.
“I try to be a voice of calm because there is a lot we don’t know about the disease and the epidemiology of it, the numbers behind who actually has it and who is dying from it are still unclear,” Fallicciardi said. “I have faith in our methods of quarantine and the CDC has always been transparent and it’s not like that in every country but ours has been transparent with us.”
Naiela Suleiman is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.