Schiffert Health Center

The front lobby of the Schiffert Health Center, Oct. 3, 2016. 

Virginia Tech officials are closely monitoring the outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus, termed 2019-nCoV, and are currently following Virginia Tech’s global travel policy, according to announcements released from Virginia Emergency Management Monday and Tuesday.

As of Thursday, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

There have been no monitored or confirmed cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus related to Virginia Tech as of  writing this article.

 “We have been monitoring the situation for several weeks now,” said Mark Owczarski, Assistant Vice President of University Relations at Virginia Tech, “Clearly, the world is watching this, and obviously there are more people involved including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.”

According to the CDC, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. Infections across China and a growing number of international locations are related to travel from Wuhan City. A small number of infections in the United States have also been verified, and many more people are being monitored for symptoms, including a number in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The CDC is currently issuing a warning level three travel notice for China, advising against all nonessential travel. As of now, Virginia Tech is following its  current policy regarding global travel relating to CDC travel notices in procedure 3.3.3 in Global Travel Policy no. 1070.

“When the CDC issues a warning level three for an affected country, the policy goes into effect, which restricts travel for all university-supported activities,” Owczarski said.

 This policy also orders that any university department that expects a guest, whether it’s a student or a visiting scholar, from that country, to inform the university.

“As of now, our main focus for these communications is for awareness and education,” Owczarski said.  

Schiffert Health Center has also introduced screening for people who come in with flu-like symptoms. Due to the fact that it is peak cold and flu season, and the fact that the coronavirus can have similar symptoms, it could be speculated that it would be difficult to differentiate the disease in its early stages.

“They would not test everyone for the virus but would move to further measures [on a patient] if they answered certain questions in the screening process, such as if they had recently traveled from an affected area,” Owczarski said.

As fears of the virus spreading are becoming international, a Chinese New Year celebration at the University of Richmond has been canceled, citing fear of the virus, according to WTVR. In addition to concerns over the virus in Virginia, a George Mason University student is one of the cases currently waiting test results for the virus, according to the university.

There have been no confirmed possible cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus relating to Virginia Tech. 

“We cannot begin to speculate on [a possible outbreak] because there are an infinite amount of scenarios,” Owczarski said.

While fears regarding the virus are growing, it is also the height of cold and flu season, and many of us can take precautionary measures to avoid falling ill this winter. According to Schiffert Health Center, the cold and flu are some of the most common health concerns for students.

To help avoid or prevent the spread of cold and the flu, students should avoid close contact with sick individuals, cover up coughing and sneezing and frequently wash their hands.

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