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Three UW students screened for coronavirus, not expected to have infection

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Three UW students screened for coronavirus, not expected to have infection

Three UW Seattle students are being screened for the new coronavirus, with one already testing negative for the infection and two others awaiting test results, according to an email sent to the campus community Sunday night.

The students recently traveled to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began last month, and developed symptoms after returning. Symptoms range from little to no symptoms to severe illness and dying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Specific symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The CDC believes that symptoms of the coronavirus “may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure,” according to its website.

Of the three UW students screened for the virus, the one who tested negative for the infection lived off-campus, and the other two live in on-campus housing and await their test results, according to the email. These are not confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

The two students awaiting their results have been moved to isolated housing until they are cleared to return to their normal housing by health officials.

The university was first notified of the screenings by Public Health - Seattle & King County (PHSKC). 

“Testing is a precautionary measure, and PHSKC anticipates most persons tested will not have the infection,” the notification reads. “None of the UW students were hospitalized, and all are doing very well.”

The email alert drove some panic in the UW community Sunday night, with students online voicing concerns and many wearing face masks when classes resumed on Monday.

Alex Greninger, an assistant professor in the department of laboratory medicine, wrote in an email to The Daily on Monday that “the risk for transmission here in Washington state is low currently.”

“We haven’t seen onward transmission of the virus in any of the United States cases or really any of the travel-associated cases around the world (save one in Vietnam),” he added.

Greninger’s lab at UW Medicine is developing a diagnostic test on the emerging coronavirus.

"We can ramp this up relatively quickly in sort of weeks to about a month," Greninger said in a press release. "We’re ready for these things all the time."

Washington state had the first confirmed case of the Wuhan-originating coronavirus in Snohomish County last week, unrelated to the UW. As of Monday, five people in the United States have tested positive for the virus, with 73 people under investigation awaiting test results, according to the CDC.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for PHSKC, told the King County Council on Monday that there have been six people screened in the county for coronavirus since Jan. 21. Two of those tests came back negative for the infection and he doesn’t have “a high level of suspicion” that the remaining four will test positive.

The UW’s email urges those who recently traveled to Wuhan and have fever and respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or shortness of breath, to contact their primary care provider or go to Hall Health. If students have questions about travel to or from areas with confirmed coronavirus cases, the university says they should contact the Office of Global Affairs.

The UW also wants sick students to stay home, get a surgical mask to prevent the spread of infection, cover their mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing, wash their hands often, and avoid touching their nose, eyes, or mouth.

Greninger said that students should also get the influenza vaccine and stay up to date with new information on the coronavirus as it becomes available.

The UW’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, first established in 1986 in part as a response to the emergence of HIV, will continue to monitor the outbreak with local health officials and update the community going forward.

Reach News Editor Jake Goldstein-Street at Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet

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