Penn State health and safety officials are "closely monitoring" the recent outbreak of a deadly new strain of coronavirus, according to a press release.
This strain of the virus, “2019-nCoV,” originated in the Wuhan province of China and has spread to other countries around the world, with two confirmed cases in the United States. There have been over 1,000 cases worldwide, with 41 deaths.
Coronavirus symptoms can be similar to the flu, including a fever, cough and shortness of breath in milder cases; and, more seriously, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed human-to-human transmission of the virus through the exchange of respiratory fluids.
“While we are taking every precaution to prepare for an outbreak, it’s very important to note that there are no cases of 2019-nCoV at Penn State and no reports of the virus in Pennsylvania at this time,” Dr. Robin Oliver-Veronesi, senior director of University Health Services, said in the release.
In addition to monitoring the campus itself, the university said it will ask about patients's travel histories, with a strong emphasis on China, specifically Wuhan City or the Hubei Province.
While there are no travel restrictions from China put in place by the CDC or WHO, Penn State officials from the university’s Global Safety Office are monitoring the situation, citing China as the number one destination for Penn Staters traveling abroad, thus making the country a point of concern.
“The safety of all our students, faculty and staff traveling internationally is our utmost priority," Joe Thurston, global safety analyst with Penn State Global Programs, said in the release. "In line with our standard practices for international travel, we advise all our travelers to conduct international travel within their own risk tolerance and comfort level. Should the risks of continuing travel to China increase based on new information, the university will communicate with students, and if necessary, make changes to planned programming."
Thurston said the Global Safety Office is available to take questions or discuss specific concerns with Penn State travelers.
The CDC recommends prevention techniques such as washing your hands with soap and water and avoiding your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.