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Coronavirus: Update and precautions

Recent news accounts have addressed a new strain of coronavirus – first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China – which continues to expand, including a handful of confirmed cases in the United States.

Common coronaviruses typically are mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold, lasting for a short period of time. The new strain, known as 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), may result in more severe pneumonia-like illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. While the new virus probably emerged from animal sources, it now seems to be spreading person-to-person.

There have been no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in our region or in Pennsylvania, and it does not appear to present any immediate risk to the Pennsylvania College of Technology community. Penn College currently has no international students from China, nor have any students, faculty or staff been known to have traveled recently to Hubei Province or China. Confirmed U.S. cases thus far are limited to Arizona, California, Illinois and Washington, which reported the first confirmed case on Jan. 21.

Currently, there is no vaccine available to protect against 2019-nCoV, and there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended. Health authorities continue to monitor the situation carefully. A comprehensive source for information about 2019-nCoV is available at the Centers for Disease Control website.

The U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 4 (Do not travel) advisory for China.

As we are in the midst of the annual cold and flu season, we do expect to see upper respiratory illnesses in our community, and everyone is encouraged to take general precautions. The CDC recommends these measures to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Students who are experiencing cold or flu-type symptoms are urged to contact College Health Services, Room 150 of the Bush Campus Center, at 570-320-5234 or by email.

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