About Coronaviruses


Current Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19):

What is the status of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) at Penn?

Currently, there are no identified cases in the Penn Community. Penn has highly professional, trained medical staff members that are closely following developments, are working closely with other University offices to make well informed decisions, and are committed to protecting the health of the Penn community.

What are current University of Pennsylvania actions to protect the health of our community?

  • The University strongly recommends 14 days of self-isolation for any Penn community member with travel from China. This recommendation is consistent with the guidance outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and consistent with protocols from the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS). These recommendations are applied prospectively AND retrospectively for any person who traveled to mainland China or Hubei Province for the preceding 14 days.
  • The University continues to touch base with those students with recent travel to China. If you have recently arrived in the US with travel in or through China, please contact the public health nurse (guagenti@upenn.edu) or 215-746-0806 for further guidance.
  • Since it is cold and flu season, and the virus has similar symptoms, it is important to not make any assumptions. If you’re feeling unwell, make an appointment online at Student Health Service or call to speak to a nurse (215-746-3535). Faculty and staff should contact their primary health care provider.
  • The American College Health Association is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on guidance for colleges and universities. Clinical providers at SHS have guidance from the CDC and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) regarding screening and prevention.
  • Penn currently recommends rescheduling, delaying, or canceling all planned University travel to China between now and the end of the term (May 12, 2020). This includes academic programs, extracurricular programs, executive education programs, and all other Penn-affiliated travel. Consistent with the recommendations of both the CDC and the U.S. Department of State, Penn is advising students, staff and faculty to delay all personal travel to China for the time being unless it is absolutely necessary. Register your travel here.
    • Foreign nationals, other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have traveled in China within the last 14 days, will be denied entry into the U.S.
    • Any U.S. citizen returning to the U.S. who has been in the Hubei province in the previous 14 days will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
    • Any U.S. citizen returning to the U.S. who has been in the rest of mainland China in the previous 14 days, will undergo proactive entry health screening at a select number of ports of entry, and up to 14 days of monitored self-quarantine.

Here is a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus 

Penn is working diligently to translate more of our messages. Until those translations are available, a student from the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Penn translated some of the campus communication. Those translations are available here.


What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large, very common, family of viruses. Most often, human coronaviruses commonly cause mild to moderate illness in people worldwide.

How is it transmitted?

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through

  • the air by coughing and sneezing
  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands
  • rarely, fecal contamination

Signs and Symptoms

Known human coronaviruses normally cause mild respiratory infections, such as the common cold.

Symptoms associated with the novel infection (COVID-19) include fever and cough with possible difficulty breathing. If you’re feeling unwell, contact Student Health Service (215-746-3535) and select the option to speak with a nurse.

Treatment

No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available. Outside of seeking medical care, individuals who feel sick with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should stay home and away from others.  Before seeking medical care, call the medical provider about symptoms and travel history.

Prevention

The same prevention techniques work for all coronaviruses. You should:

  • Use good hand hygiene: Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Limit the spread of germs and illness: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve or elbow. Avoid sharing food, drinks, utensils, cups, vapes/JUULs, etc.
  • Stay home if you are feeling unwell. If you are not feeling better after 24 hours, seek medical guidance.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)

What is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a respiratory disease caused by a virus (specifically coronavirus, CoV). MERS primarily affects the respiratory system with symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, but gastrointestinal symptoms have been reported as well.

The majority of infections are attributed to human-to-human contact, but camels are believed to be a major reservoir for MERS-CoV. The virus does not spread easily from person to person unless there is close contact, such as caring for, or living with, a symptomatic person.

How is it transmitted?

MERS-CoV is normally spread by an infected person through respiratory secretions including droplets and mucous. An infected person should avoid coughing, sneezing near close contacts, or sharing food, utensils, or drinks. MERS-CoV has most often spread through healthcare settings where there is close contact between infected persons and their caregivers. The virus does not appear to pass easily from person to person unless there is close contact, such as providing unprotected care to an infected patient. Researchers studying MERS have not seen any ongoing spreading of MERS-CoV in the community.

Signs and Symptoms

The clinical spectrum of MERS-CoV infection ranges from no symptoms (asymptomatic) or mild respiratory symptoms to severe acute respiratory disease and death. A typical presentation of MERS-CoV disease is fever, cough and shortness of breath, which in some cases may develop into pneumonia. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, have also been reported. Like many illnesses, MERS-CoV is most harmful to elders or those with underlying medical conditions. Pre-existing conditions from reported cases thus far include cancer, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and heart or kidney diseases. The time between when a person is exposed to MERS-CoV and when they start to have symptoms is usually about 5 or 6 days, but can range from 2-14 days.

Should you feel concerned about a potential exposure, contact 215-746-3535 and select the option to speak with a nurse.

Treatment

No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is exploring the possibility of developing one. Medical care is supportive treatment to reduce and relieve symptoms. People should avoid contact with camels, drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked. Good hand hygiene (e.g. soap+water+30 seconds) and safe food practices (e.g. pasteurization and full cooking of meats) should be utilized.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/

World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus


Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)

What is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a respiratory disease caused by a virus (specifically coronavirus, CoV). SARS primarily affects the respiratory system with symptoms such as high fever, headache, body aches and dry cough, but gastrointestinal symptoms have been reported as well. There has not been a known reported case of SARS-CoV since 2004 in the entire world.

How is it transmitted?

The majority of infections are attributed to human-to-human contact. The virus does not spread easily from person to person unless there is close contact, such as caring for, or living with, a symptomatic person.

SARS-CoV is normally spread by an infected person through respiratory secretions including droplets and mucous. An infected person should avoid coughing, sneezing near close contacts, or sharing food, utensils, or drinks. SARS-CoV has most often spread through healthcare settings where there is close contact between infected persons and their caregivers. The virus does not appear to pass easily from person to person unless there is close contact, such as providing unprotected care to an infected patient. SARS-CoV can spread if an infected person touches a surface and contaminates it with infectious droplets, and then another person touches the contaminated surface, and then their mouth, nose or eye(s). As mentioned above, there has not been a known reported case of SARS-CoV since 2004.

Signs and Symptoms

SARS-CoV will typically begin with a high fever and then have symptoms like a headache, body ache and some mild respiratory symptoms. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, have also been reported (in 10-20 percent of patients). Someone infected with SARS may develop a dry cough after 2-7 days. Like many illnesses, SARS-CoV is most harmful to elders or those with underlying medical conditions. The incubation period, or time from being exposed to SARS-CoV and then showing symptoms, is 2-7 days, but could be as long as 14 days.

Should you feel concerned about a potential exposure, contact 215-746-3535 and select the option to speak with a nurse.

Treatment

No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available, but the CDC recommends that patients be treated similar to any serious community-acquired atypical pneumonia. Good hand hygiene (e.g. soap+water+30 seconds) and not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands should be utilized to help protect oneself.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/

World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus


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(updated 2/14/2020)