UTEP continues monitoring coronavirus outbreak

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Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

Anahy Diaz, Contributor

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) said it is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Texas Department of State Health Services, as it continues to monitor developments connected to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in China.  

On Jan. 28, the CDC issued a Level 3 health notice, which recommends travelers to avoid non-essential travel to China, while the Department of State issued a Level 4 travel advisory, which recommends no travel to China at all.  These warnings come as a response to the outbreak of respiratory illnesses caused by the infection of coronavirus that began in the city of Wuhan, in early December 2019. 

Media reports at least 2,600 deaths and almost 80,000 confirmed cases as of Feb. 24, with the vast majority in mainland China.  

“Given what we’ve seen in China and other countries with the novel coronavirus, CDC experts have expected some person-to-person spread in the U.S.,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield in a press release. “We understand that this may be concerning, but based on what we know now, we still believe the immediate risk to the American public is low.” 

UTEP is reminding students and staff that any travel to a Level 3 or Level 4 destination requires review and approval by its International Oversight Committee and the submission of an International Travel Exemption.  

The first confirmed case of coronavirus in Texas was confirmed Feb. 13 by the CDC. The individual, who is isolated and receiving medical care at a local hospital in San Antonio, was part of a group  flown to a San Antonio Air Force base on a State Department-chartered flight from Hubei Province, China Feb. 7. This marks the 15th confirmed case of the virus in the U.S. 

In order to prevent its spread, the CDC is conducting health screenings for travelers returning to the U.S. from China in the last 14 days. Travelers, including U.S. citizens and residents, will be required to enter the country through specific airports and be monitored by health officials until the 14-day period has ended. This includes limited or restricted contact with others.  

Some of the symptoms patients with confirmed coronavirus have experienced include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC believes those who have contracted the virus can begin experiencing symptoms as soon as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure 

However, there are precautions one can take to avoid exposure to this virus, same as those to prevent the spread of the flu virus, including washing hands with soap and water, avoiding close contact with people who are experiencing any form of sickness, covering cough or sneeze with a tissue and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces. 

“Risk is dependent on exposure and some people will have greater risk of infection, for example, healthcare workers caring for 2019-nCoV (coronavirus) patients and other close contacts,” CDC wrote in a media statement. “CDC is aggressively responding to this serious public health situation to help protect the health of Americans. This response may cause disruptions in some people’s daily lives. This is unfortunate, but necessary to protect the health of Americans.” 

Anahy Diaz may be reached at [email protected]