U.S. declares public health emergency over coronavirus, university monitors outbreak

Running a fever, coughing  and dealing with a runny nose are common symptoms of a virus known as the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. This bug we deal with every day is part of a larger virus family known as coronavirus. 

The particular strain hitting China and other parts of the world was named the 2019 novel coronavirus. Some more severe coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

The new strain of coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China and is linked to an outbreak that has now spread to at least 28 countries around the world, according to the CDC. It is also reportedly in five states in the United States. Symptoms for this particular strain include fever, cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. 

According to an article from The New York Times, more than 300 people have died from the virus and there are more than 14,000 cases recorded worldwide. 

The WHO declared the spread of the novel coronavirus an international public health emergency on Jan. 30. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs announced a travel ban on Jan. 31 to China. The ban took effect Sunday, Feb. 2 at 5 p.m.  

In the United States, there are eight cases reportedly confirmed: 

six in California, two in Illinois and one in Arizona, Washington and Massachusetts, according to local health authorities.

According to the Associated Press, 195 Americans were flown from Wuhan and taken to a military base in California for three days of testing and monitoring to ensure they do not shown any signs of the virus. The plane left China early on Jan. 28; its passengers will continue to be monitored for up to 14 days. 

Symptoms of coronavirus from the World Health Organization:

• respiratory symptoms

• fever

• cough

• shortness of breath

• breathing difficulties

There are no confirmed cases in Ohio, but two students at Miami University were tested after one of the students started showing symptoms after returning from a trip to China. An official from the Butler County Health Department announced Sunday the tests were negative for coronavirus.

The Cleveland Clinic released a statement regarding its coronavirus preparation that stated it is following updates from the CDC and WHO and has added an extra screening question “to identify patients who have recently traveled to China.”

Eric Mansfield, executive director of university media relations, said there are “no persons under investigation at Kent State or in Portage County for the coronavirus” and that officals at Kent State are monitoring the situation.

“In response to the public health concern over coronavirus, the university is working closely with the Ohio Department of Health, the Portage County Health District and the Kent City Health District, as all of those agencies are monitoring the spread of the virus,” Mansfield said. “So we will continue to work with these public health agencies for, you know, the most up-to-date information and [to] ensure we’re as prepared as we can be, should their virus reach our immediate area.” 

In an email to students, faculty and staff at the university, Lamar Hylton, interim vice president for student affairs, and Julie Volcheck, interim assistant vice president for student affairs, offered preventive tips and resources like the DeWeese Health Center. Some of the tips include washing hands with soap and water, covering one’s mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing and avoiding contact with people who are sick. 

Prevention tips from Kent State

• Wash hands often with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands

• Avoid contact with people who are sick

• Stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others

• Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing

• Clean your door knobs/light switches and areas commonly touched with disinfectant wipes frequently

Jef Davis, associate director of international student and scholar services, said the Office of Global Education staff is monitoring the situation and will determine whether any changes to travel plans are warranted regarding the Kent State Xi’an Summer Institute. The Xi’an program is a four-week summer program that gives students the opportunity to study abroad in China. 

Overall, Mansfield said he hopes people will stay informed and that if anyone starts to have some of these symptoms “they [should] know that health care professionals here are prepared to help them.” 

Contact Rachel Karas at [email protected]. 

Sara Al Harthi contributed to this report.

Contact Sara Al Harthi at [email protected]