Although the coronavirus has spread to more than 20 countries including the United States in the past several weeks, Texas Woman’s University officials say there is little chance the virus will make its way to campus.
Amid concern the group of respiratory viruses known as coronaviruses, which can cause everything from a cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is rapidly spreading, TWU released a statement Jan. 30 educating students about the relatively low risk of contraction.
“The university is collaborating with Denton County Public Health and other state and national health organizations to implement best practices for screening and treating any student who may report symptoms,” an Inside TWU news release reads. “TWU does not have any known international students, faculty or staff with recent travel to China, and there are no confirmed cases in Texas at this time.”
Though cases of coronavirus – or 2019-nCoV, which is the active strain – have continued to spread in the past several weeks, Dr. Constance Menard, director of Student Health Services at TWU, cited the absence of local cases as a measure of the likelihood the virus would reach students.
“At the current time, there are only 12 confirmed cases in the U.S. and the vast majority of possible cases have been negative,” Menard said. “Based on current knowledge, the risk to TWU students from this coronavirus is extremely low.”
Since the first case of the coronavirus appeared in Wuhan, China in early January, more than 40,000 cases have been confirmed around the world. The World Health Organization declared the virus a Global Health Emergency Jan. 30, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deployed public health officials to screen passengers arriving from Wuhan from major ports of entry around the United States.
Most confirmed cases, however, have been in China, with sporadic cases appearing in parts of Asia, Europe, Australia and the United States.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and can lead to complications like pneumonia. Because of the low risk to students who have not been in contact with anyone infected, Menard said the appearance of such symptoms is much more likely to be indicative of the flu than coronavirus.
“Students should know that symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu,” Menard said. “While there are no cases for the coronavirus in Texas, there are lots of cases of the flu in Texas and at TWU. The flu is much more likely if the student is sick.”
Symptoms appear two to 14 days after exposure. Though officials are still working to determine exactly how the virus spreads, it is believed to be transmitted via nasal fluid or saliva when infected persons sneeze or cough.
The CDC recommends people wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based sanitizers and avoid contact with infected persons to lower the chances of contracting respiratory viruses. Officials do not recommend wearing face masks.
Though she said TWU will continue to monitor emerging facts about the virus, Menard stressed the situation is rapidly changing and encouraged members of the TWU community to visit the CDC website for the latest information.
Amber Gaudet can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image by Angelica Monsour.