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Smith College Says Student Is Being Monitored Out Of 'Abundance Of Caution' For Possible Coronavirus

Stewardesses take temperatures of passengers as a preventive measure for the coronavirus on an Air China flight from Melbourne to Beijing before it land at Beijing Capital International Airport in China on Tuesday. (Andy Wong/AP)
Stewardesses take temperatures of passengers as a preventive measure for the coronavirus on an Air China flight from Melbourne to Beijing before it land at Beijing Capital International Airport in China on Tuesday. (Andy Wong/AP)

A Smith College student is now in isolation "out of an abundance of caution" after she told the school she has "cold-like symptoms" and may have been on the same flight from China as the man who has the state's first confirmed case of novel coronavirus, a Smith spokeswoman said Tuesday.

In a letter to the campus community in Northampton, Mass., Sunday, Smith staffers wrote:

Earlier today, a Smith student notified the college that she believes
it is possible — though unconfirmed — that she may have returned from China on the same flight as an eastern Massachusetts college student who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

The letter added that the school immediately notified the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which advised the student to follow CDC flu protocols by remaining in isolation while her health is monitored.

The school said there is no threat to the community at this time, and a spokeswoman told WBUR that: "... neither the DPH nor CDC has indicated that the Smith student — or any member of our community — is at risk of exposure or transmission of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus."

State health officials have not made public information about the flight taken by the UMass Boston student who contracted the virus or his movements. He is recovering at home and does not live on campus.

A spokesperson for the Boston Public Health Commission said while health officials know where the UMass Boston student with confirmed coronavirus has been — and at what times — since his flight from Wuhan, China, that information will not be made public.

This type of information is made public in measles cases, the spokesperson explained, because that virus can linger in areas for hours and still infect people — so certain locations may be hazardous.

Health officials believe novel coronavirus, on the other hand, can largely only be transmitted from infected people to others standing within range of a cough, sneeze or other direct contact with bodily droplets. Like the flu, people are generally safe from infection simply by standing 6 feet away from sick individuals and regularly washing their hands with soap and water.

The commission also urged the public to remember that it is the height of flu season. While novel coronavirus symptoms include coughing, fever and runny nose, most suspected cases are likely to be the flu or a common cold.

This article was originally published on February 04, 2020.

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