University administrators “strongly” advised Harvard affiliates to refrain from travel to China and urged precautions for those returning from the country to “protect the health and safety of our community,” as the number of confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus continues to rise.
University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 and Harvard University Health Services Director Giang T. Nguyen issued the guidance in a Wednesday email to University affiliates, citing travel warnings from multiple US government agencies, including a CDC advisory to “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” to China.
Garber and Nguyen also urged Harvard affiliates currently in China to “follow the guidance of local health authorities,” and advised anyone who has recently returned from the country to immediately contact HUHS if they experience a “fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.”
Nguyen previously wrote in an email last week that the University was “closely monitoring” the outbreak. Wednesday’s email reiterated that statement and added the travel warnings and other guidance.
The outbreak is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, but cases have since been confirmed in at least 19 other countries worldwide, including at least five in the United States.
As of Wednesday evening, there are over 7,700 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, and the death toll has now reached 170.
While there have been no confirmed cases in Massachusetts, state officials have refused to reveal whether they are one of 26 states currently testing possible coronavirus patients.
Garber and Nguyen sought to downplay concerns about risks associated with the virus for Harvard affiliates, though, writing that the likelihood of infection is “very low.”
Nonetheless, they acknowledged the “anxiety and emotional strain” that the virus might cause, and directed individuals towards Harvard’s mental health resources, including Counseling and Mental Health Services and Harvard’s Employee Assistance Program.
The duo also wrote in the Wednesday email that the University is not conducting screening beyond the examinations currently occuring at Boston’s Logan airport, where the CDC recently began screening all travelers arriving from China.
“That could change, of course, as the situation evolves, and Harvard may need to impose conditions on travelers returning to campus if warranted by changing circumstances,” Garber and Nguyen added.
The administrators also wrote that they will send updates on the virus “periodically” and will “regularly” update HUHS’s website with additional information on the outbreak.
—Staff writer Fiona K. Brennan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @FionaBrennan23
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