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Jan. 31 Update: FAQs about the coronavirus

The following message was sent Jan. 31 to all UW-Eau Claire and UW-Eau Claire – Barron County students, faculty and staff.

As most are aware from ongoing news reports, a novel (new) coronavirus, named 2019-nCoV, has caused an outbreak of respiratory illness that originated in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. This outbreak began in early December 2019 and has continued to expand in scope. This week, the outbreak was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

At this time, six cases of the virus have been confirmed in the U.S. and none have been confirmed in Wisconsin. See the most up-to-date information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services regarding the numbers of patients under investigation for and confirmed as being infected with 2019-nCoV.

What is UW-Eau Claire doing at its Eau Claire and Rice Lake campuses in response to the new coronavirus outbreak?

In the interest of the well-being of all members of our community, UW-Eau Claire staff from Risk Management and Safety, Student Health Service, Housing and Residence Life, and the Center for International Education are taking a proactive approach to this situation. We are working closely with officials from the Eau Claire City-County Health Department and the Barron County Department of Health and Human Services in monitoring the outbreak, staying current with the latest recommendations and making necessary preparations. These county agencies are, in turn, in ongoing communication with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and, at the national level, the CDC.

We have sent a communication to students, faculty and staff with prevention measures to be taken, as well as instructions for individuals who have traveled to or from China in the last 14 days and are experiencing symptoms, OR who have been notified that they are a contact to a confirmed case or to a person under investigation. We also are continuing to perform additional cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces and restrooms across our campuses.

What information will the university share regarding any students or employees who have recently traveled to or from China?

It is important to note that this coronavirus, although it first appeared in China, has infected travelers across the globe and is not a China-specific concern.  Just like with the standard influenza, we recognize that anyone who has traveled to or from an infected area or been in close contact with someone who was infected with the virus, could have contracted it.  This is not a problem faced by one country; as the World Health Organization has declared, this is a problem we face together regardless of country of origin.  There have been victims of this disease in a multitude of countries with a variety of nationalities.

Approximately 165 students from China are studying on the Eau Claire campus during the spring semester. These include students who are new arrivals to campus this semester as well as those who have been enrolled in previous semesters and are continuing their education here. Thirteen students from China will be taking classes as enrolled students at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County in Rice Lake. University officials have been and will continue to be in communication with any students who have traveled or are planning to travel to our campuses from China for the spring semester.

UW-Eau Claire did not have study abroad students or students and faculty on immersion trips in China during Winterim, nor are any students or faculty traveling there for study abroad or immersion trips during spring 2020.

To comply with state and federal privacy laws, the university will not release any names or residential information regarding any student or employee who may contract 2019-nCoV. If you are concerned that exposure to a student or employee may create a risk to your personal health, please use your judgment in regard to your health care. The CDC recommends that individuals self-monitor and/or review information and resources from the CDC (see below).

What are the symptoms of illness caused by 2019-nCoV and when do they appear following exposure to the virus?

Because 2019-nCoV is a new virus, information is changing daily. Signs and symptoms of the illness caused by 2019-nCoV include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Preliminary information suggests that, as with the seasonal flu, older adults and people with health conditions or compromised immune systems may be at higher risk of severe illness from this virus. Continue to check the CDC website for any updates on the appearance of symptoms.

What are the current recommendations for prevention from the CDC?

Consistent with usual hygiene recommendations during this time of increased seasonal flu, public health officials encourage frequent hand-washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. See the CDC website for more detailed prevention information.

Individuals who have compromised immune systems, or who are in close contact with those with compromised immune system, should exercise the normal precautions they have been instructed to follow by their medical provider.  These typically include the same precautions such as frequent hand-washing.

Current recommendations are that individuals who have been in Wuhan, China, in the last 14 days and are experiencing symptoms, OR who have been notified that they are a contact to a confirmed case or to a person under investigation, should call their local public health department. Health department contact information is as follows for UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff:

  • Students, faculty and staff at the Eau Claire campus: Eau Claire City-County Health Department, 715-839-4718 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 715-839-4972 after hours and on weekends (leave name and number with dispatch and a county public health professional will call you to do an assessment).
  • Students, faculty and staff at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County: Barron County Department of Health and Human Services, 715-537-5691 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 715-537-3106 after hours and on weekends (leave name and number with dispatch and a county public health professional will call you to do an assessment).

For more information on the 2019-nCoV outbreak, see the CDC website and the World Health Organization website.