Ohio University

OHIO launches health alerts page with human coronavirus information

Published: January 28, 2020 Author: Staff reports

As many are aware from recent news reports, an outbreak of a respiratory illness originating from Wuhan, China, has spread to the United States and several other countries. The novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, has now been diagnosed in more than 4,500 people with more than 100 deaths. There are several confirmed cases in the U.S.

Ohio University has launched a new health alerts page to educate students, faculty and staff about human coronavirus. Ohio University is collaborating daily with medical professionals, the Athens City-County Health Department and the Ohio Department of Health and will follow their recommendations. It’s important to note that unless you have recently traveled from China or have been around someone ill with this virus, your risk of getting sick is very low. If you have traveled to China within the past 14 days and are experiencing signs or symptoms of this coronavirus, you are encouraged to call ahead, then go to the nearest hospital to your campus for testing, such as OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital in Athens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States issued a “Warning Level 3 – Avoid Nonessential Travel” for all of China. This is the highest-level travel warning issued by the CDC. Likewise, the U.S. Department of State (USDOS) has increased its Travel Advisory for all of China to Level 3 “Reconsider Travel.” More information is also available on the International SOS website (OHIO’s membership number is 11BCAS000010) and on the Ohio Department of Health’s website. County health departments are also coordinating with the Ohio Department of Health.

As the coronavirus can be transmitted by carriers with no symptoms, we are asking all to be extra vigilant at this time as this is a quickly evolving situation. While we have only a few confirmed cases in the United States, this serves as a reminder to employ preventive measures that will help curtail the spread of all 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.

(Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Human coronaviruses are common worldwide, and most people will get infected with at least one of them in their lifetime. Common human coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Symptoms may include a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and fever. Most who are affected by this virus recover on their own.

More severe coronaviruses, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) have been known to cause severe illness and death, though no cases of SARS have been reported worldwide since 2004. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus has also caused severe illness and death in some cases, and almost no symptoms in others.

There is no vaccine for any human coronavirus. The CDC reports that although carriers with no symptoms can be transmitters, human coronaviruses are most commonly spread by an infected person coughing and sneezing, close personal contact like touching or shaking hands, touching a surface with a virus on it, followed by touching the mouth, nose or eyes before washing hands, or in rare cases, fecal contamination.

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus appears to be spreading from person to person, but it’s not yet clear how easily that occurs. The spread of other forms, such as MERS or SARS, is thought to be caused mainly through sneezing or coughing.

For more information about human coronavirus, prevention, and other health alerts, visit OHIO’s health alerts page, travelers health tips, and general health and safety information for University travelers. Additionally, students, faculty, staff, and visiting scholars are encouraged to visit the CDC website at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices for Travel Notices and Updates.