U-M monitoring developments in coronavirus outbreak


While the immediate health risk to the general public in the United States is considered low, University of Michigan officials are closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus first detected in China.

In a Jan. 27 email to all Ann Arbor campus faculty, staff and students, U-M health officials shared that while there are some confirmed U.S. cases of the illness known as 2019-nCoV, no cases have been confirmed in Michigan.

Similar emails were sent to the UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint campuses by their respective leadership.

Four potential cases in southeast Michigan were submitted for testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and all came back negative for the virus, according to the Washtenaw County Health Department and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“At this time, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general public in the U.S. is considered low. This situation may change quickly as we learn more about how this new virus spreads between people,” wrote Preeti Malani, professor of internal medicine and U-M chief health officer; Robert Ernst, assistant professor of internal medicine, executive director of University Health Service, and associate vice president of student life for health and wellness; and Lindsey Mortenson, UHS medical director.

As of Jan. 27, the Washtenaw County Health Department does not consider contact with a healthy person who recently traveled to China or Wuhan City in Hubei Province, where the virus is believed to have originated, to be a risk or potential exposure.

The CDC recently classified China as a level 3 warning destination, recommending that all individuals avoid nonessential travel to the country. The U.S. State Department has classified China as a level 4 travel advisory, recommending that individuals avoid all travel to the country.

Because of the CDC action, all travel to China is under a U-M travel restriction. Undergraduate students may not proceed with U-M related travel to China. Graduate students may only do so with a university-approved safety plan, which ensures they are aware of the health risks, have developed strategies to stay safe, and are prepared to shelter in place should China impose additional travel restrictions.

Anyone who develops fever and respiratory symptoms within 14 days of travel to Wuhan, China, should contact a medical provider and mention the recent travel or contact.

The email outlined several actions people can take to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash 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 eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if sick.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Students and UHS patients who have not yet received a flu shot can do so at UHS. Others should contact their health care provider or local pharmacy.

— Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original version.


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