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University at Buffalo sends coronavirus alert to students, school community

UB has about 1,500 students from China, where the coronavirus outbreak is occurring.

AMHERST, N.Y. — There have been no confirmed reports of coronavirus in Erie County or the state. But University at Buffalo still feels it needs to send out an alert to its campus community warning them about the coronavirus. 

UB has more international students than any other college in our area. About 1,500 of them are from China, which experiencing the coronavirus outbreak.

UB officials estimate about half of those students -- about 700 or so -- traveled to China for winter break and returned before classes started Monday. 

"We don't know when they returned right, so some may have traveled early when classes let out and were back well before a 14-day window would be now," said Sue Snyder, the director of UB's Student Health Services. 

UB officials were quick to state this is not the time for finger-pointing. 

"No distinct group of people should be stigmatized or marginalized. All should be welcomed. Our campus community is aware that students, especially our Chinese students, may have family directly impacted by the virus, and we should take care to offer them our support and understanding," said John DellaContrada, a UB spokesperson. 

Have school officials been reaching out to other students from other countries that have also been impacted, and not just China? 

"Yeah, we've been reaching out through social media. We sent an all-campus email to all faculty, staff and students on Friday. It went out to 54,000 with general advice on how to monitor their health," DellaContrada said.

UB says students who recently returned to campus from China were sent an email to monitor their health. 

"Listen to your body. If you're not feeling well, we're looking for fever or evaluating for cough and shortness of breathe. And if that's the case, we want those students stay at home stay, where they are and call us," DellaContrada said.

Those students should call UB's Student Health Services.  

"We will go into depth about their travel history and their symptoms, and Erie County and the state get to determine whether testing is necessary," Snyder said.

UB officials say since we're in flu season anyway, janitors are cleaning classrooms and common areas more than usual. 

UB does have alternative housing options for students if they need it. 

The university launched a website with a lot of information the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides about the coronavirus.

In a statement, Niagara University has provided this information:

Niagara University promotes a healthy and safe campus environment and is continuing to monitor the status of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).  The University maintains rigorous and detailed health and safety preparedness and response protocols.  As in all matters of public health concern, we are reminded of the role we share in promoting personal wellness and the wellbeing of the campus community.

Niagara University's Office of Health Services has received guidance from the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and has adjusted intake protocols for students presenting with flu-like respiratory symptoms.  Several individuals in New York State are undergoing observation and testing – however - no cases of 2019-nCoV have yet been diagnosed in the state.  While the NYS DOH and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are taking this situation seriously, the CDC indicates that "the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time."

In the midst of an influenza-season seeing a high-level of activity nationwide, the CDC continues to recommend typical actions to help prevent the spread of all respiratory viruses:

  • 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.

Treatment for respiratory viruses is most effective with early intervention. Those with flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, and fatigue) should contact a healthcare provider.

All students, graduate and undergraduate, may contact the office of Health Services for an appointment. Faculty, staff, and administration should contact their personal healthcare provider.  

The Office of International Relations is providing support to members of the Niagara University community who are from China as they may have their own family members experiencing a great deal of concern and stress during what should be the most joyful time of the year, Chinese New Year.

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