GW Officials Monitoring the Coronavirus

The university urged students to exercise caution while traveling abroad and has communicated directly with students who are in China for the spring semester.

January 29, 2020

George Washington University students who have recently traveled abroad or are currently traveling abroad have been advised to take precautions in light of a new strain of respiratory illness that originated in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

There are currently five confirmed cases of coronavirus, termed “2019-nCoV,” in the United States. 

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses and usually causes mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold, but more severe disease has occurred with at least two previously identified strains (SARS and MERS). According to the CDC, this new strain is causing an outbreak of pneumonia illness. Symptoms can include fever, dry cough, sore throat, problems breathing, including shortness of breath, headache and body aches.

Information regarding this new strain of the coronavirus is rapidly evolving. If you are currently traveling, have recently traveled to Wuhan, or come into contact with someone who has traveled there, you should wash your hands often and avoid contact with sick people, animals, animal markets and products that come from animals such as uncooked meat.

 If you traveled to Wuhan and feel sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you come to the GW Colonial Health Center, a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead to discuss your recent travel and your symptoms so that you can be triaged during the initial phone call. The GW Colonial Health Center’s phone operations (202-994-5300) are open 24/7 for consultation for currently enrolled students.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

“Your health and well-being are important to us,” said M.L. Cissy Petty, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, please contact a medical professional right away. If you are a student with general questions, please reach out to a trusted resource on campus like a faculty or staff member, resident advisor, resident director or an area coordinator for more information and where to turn to for resources on- and off-campus.”

In response to the developing situation, GW is taking the following proactive measures:

  • Placing hand sanitizer in residence halls and many centralized locations.
  • Daily wipe-downs in campus facilities.
  • Engaging our public health team to coordinate communication and response across the campus community.
  • Outreach to students, faculty and staff with preventative health measures.

GW Hospital and Medical Faculty Associates will be asking patients if they have traveled to China recently and masking anyone in clinic areas.

Members of the GW community traveling abroad are encouraged to seek the most up-to-date information and remain informed about changing conditions while in the country or traveling throughout the region.

Students have been encouraged to continue following updates on the coronavirus through their in-country host institutions, State Department alerts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

To protect against a range of illnesses, including coronavirus, the WHO recommends:

  • Clean hands frequently by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Studies have shown that hand washing can prevent one in five respiratory infections.
  • Cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow of tissue when coughing and sneezing and throw tissues away immediately and wash hands.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough.
  • Seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

Students who plan to travel throughout China or the surrounding region during breaks are advised to monitor local media for further information regarding the situation and adhere to any advisories or directives issued by local authorities. Travelers are advised to avoid travel to any severely-affected areas, such as the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, and Ezhou.

The university is working closely with its public health partners and will continue to monitor the situation, providing updates on Campus Advisories as conditions change. More information can be found on the CDC’s frequently asked questions webpage.

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