University health officials provide information on coronavirus during China outbreak

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Photo Credit: Barbra Daly | Daily Texan Staff

Although there are no cases of the new coronavirus in Travis County as of Monday, University Health Services sent a campuswide email on Jan. 23 to educate students about the virus and seasonal respiratory illnesses.    

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared Sunday that a Texas A&M University student who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, and displayed symptoms tested negative for the new coronavirus. Baylor University announced Monday that the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District confirmed a Baylor student, who also traveled from Wuhan and showed symptoms, tested negative for the virus.

Doctors in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China, first reported the new virus to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31. It was later confirmed on Jan. 7 to be a novel coronavirus. Since then, the new coronavirus has killed more than 100 people in China and infected nearly 4,000 people worldwide, according to The New York Times.

In the United States, 110 people are undergoing testing for the virus, with five testing positive and 32 testing negative, according to the CDC.

“UHS, along with our other campus partners at the University, are monitoring the situation closely,” said Terrance Hines, UHS executive director and chief medical officer. “We are having ongoing discussions and meetings amongst ourselves as well as tracking any developments that come out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” 

There are multiple criteria for evaluating the novel coronavirus, according to the CDC. Symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. A history of travel from Wuhan and close contact with an individual who is either under investigation or has a confirmed case of the virus are also signs of potential infection. 

“If we were to have someone present to the clinic, meeting those criteria, we would coordinate that with Austin Public Health, and they would direct us on the testing and sending those specimens off to the CDC,” Hines said.

There has been limited person-to-person spread of the virus in the U.S., Hines said. However, if there is a confirmed case on campus, Hines said health officials would isolate the individual, notify necessary contacts and monitor the evolving situation.

Hines said the campus community should take general cold and flu season precautions, such as keeping hands clean and avoiding close contact with sick people. He said the majority of healthy, college-aged people who have contracted this virus have recovered quickly.

“They might have a fever, cough or sore throat,” Hines said. “Fortunately, the illness thus far has had relatively mild effects on people who are otherwise healthy.” 

 

Haley Luse, a biomedical sciences sophomore at Texas A&M, said when she first heard about the coronavirus case in College Station, she thought of buying a surgical mask and staying away from public transportation to avoid infection. 

“I didn’t want to leave the house and be exposed because it’s scary not knowing or not having … a vaccine or anything like that,“ Luse said.

Nutrition sophomore Gabrielle Capesius said she thinks UHS has done the best job they can to address this situation. 

“They do as much as they can because you can’t really force people to read emails,” Capesius said. “They do the best they can to get the word out around campus, and it’s just better traveling by word of mouth.”