Coronavirus: Miami changes travel and programs as students await test results

Officials at Miami University and at county and state health departments were continuing Thursday to wait for test results to determine whether two male students there tested positive for the deadly coronavirus.

The students, who traveled to China during the six-week break between semesters, told Miami health officials they felt sick on Monday, the first day classes resumed. Since they showed flu-like symptoms and had traveled to China — where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in December — they were administered three tests that were sent to the Ohio Department of Health, then overnighted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

University officials have said the results should be known within 24 to 48 hours, meaning today at the latest in that expected schedule.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus to be a global public health emergency as more than a dozen countries deal with confirmed cases.

The U.N. health agency defines an international emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.

“We are working diligently with national and international public health partners to bring this outbreak under control as fast as possible,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said at a news conference.

This news came just hours after the first human-to-human transmission of coronavirus was confirmed in Illinois, according to the CDC.

On a call with national reporters, CDC officials said a woman diagnosed earlier this month as having the 2019 novel coronavirus had infected her husband. The woman, in her 60s, was doing “quite well” in the hospital, while her husband, also in his 60s but suffering from other health issues, was in stable condition, according to the Chicago Department of Public health.

The couple had been in frequent contact with each other since she returned to Chicago from Wuhan, China, the city where the virus originated, according to health officials. They are tracing his steps to determine with whom he had contact since being infected, but officials have determined he attended “no mass gatherings.”

Local universities and organizations are taking precautionary steps in the wake of the virus.

Men’s and women’s basketball games at Miami were postponed this week at the request of the visiting teams, but Miami officials said they don’t plan to cancel additional events.

Miami University and Ohio State are restricting university-sponsored travel to China for all faculty, staff and students for several weeks amid coronavirus concerns, officials said.

Also, Miami announced three summer China programs this year will be redirected to another country. One Miami student studying abroad in China has returned to the Oxford campus and another student who planned to study in China this semester is staying in Oxford, officials said.

On Wednesday, Premier Health and Kettering Health Network hospitals, with locations throughout the region, started screening patients exhibiting cold and flu symptoms for their travel history, hospital leaders said.

Since last month, health officials have confirmed cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus in more than 20 countries, including the U.S. and Canada, according to the CDC. In the U.S., four other people have been confirmed as having been infected with the coronavirus in addition to the couple in Illinois: one in Washington, two in California and one in Arizona.

As of Thursday, about 7,700 people have become ill and 170 have died since the coronavirus was first detected last month in Wuhan, according to health officials. No cases outside China have proved fatal, according to officials.

Officials recommend that any people who have recently traveled to Wuhan and subsequently experienced flu-like symptoms — including fever, coughing, shortness of breath or a sore throat — contact their health care providers.

On Tuesday, Miami officials announced two students, who had traveled to China, complained of flu-like symptoms. That day, university officials and county and state health leaders held a press conference. While this was happening, numerous Miami students were seen wearing protective masks at the press conference around campus.

Throughout the press conference, officials tried to calm fears about the testing of two Miami students for possible novel coronavirus infections.

The two Miami students who were tested are being isolated in their off-campus residence, and Butler County General Health District officials are continuing to check in with them, said Melanie Amato, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health.

Jennifer Bailer, health commissioner of the Butler County Health District, said she interviewed the students and they didn’t need to be hospitalized.

When asked the course of treatment if the students are positive for coronavirus, Amato said she didn’t want to play the “what if” game.

What happens if a case of the 2019-novel coronavirus is reported?

• A case or suspected case of 2019-novel coronavirus is reported to a local health department.

• The Ohio Department of Health reports to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, if indicated, patient specimens will be collected and shipped.

• Currently, testing for this virus must take place at CDC.

• ODH will work with local, state and federal partners to investigate reports of 2019-novel coronavirus order to

identify cases and prevent the spread of infection.

Experts at the Ohio Department of Health recommend these tips to avoid the virus:

• Practice good hand hygiene.

• Follow appropriate cough and sneeze etiquette.

• Don’t go to work or school when you feel ill. Stay home and rest.

• Avoid exposure to others who are sick.


* World Health Organization declares coronavirus global health emergency after it spreads to 18 countries.

* Trump administration creates coronavirus task force

* Thousands stranded on cruise ship as coronavirus fears spread.

More coverage, XX

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