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Update for the community on coronavirus

On Monday, Jan. 27, the U.S. Department of State raised the Travel Advisory level for China to Level 3: Reconsider Travel due to spread of a novel (new) coronavirus. Later that day, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Alert Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel for all of China. Previously, the CDC warning was for Wuhan, Hubei Province, only.

This respiratory illness was first identified in Wuhan in December. The cases reported thus far in the U.S. and other countries were all connected to individuals who had recently traveled from Wuhan.

None of the reported cases have any connection to Northwestern, but the University wants to update the community on this emerging global health concern. This is a rapidly evolving situation. The CDC will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as more information becomes available. The Novel Coronavirus in China alert and the routinely updated situation summary are the best sources of information.

Due to the Level 3 advisory from the Department of State, University-sponsored undergraduate travel to China at this time is prohibited. University-sponsored spring break travel to China will be re-directed to other destinations. University-sponsored summer travel to China, including undergraduate study abroad programs, remain on schedule.

The University encourages all members of the Northwestern community to consider postponing travel to China at this time, given the uncertainty about how rapidly the virus is spreading, as well as the possibility of travel disruptions due to new areas in China that are under quarantine. Keep in mind that Lunar New Year holidays, between now and Feb. 3, is a busy travel period during which the virus could spread further throughout China and other countries in the area. Note that the University’s capacity to assist travelers impacted by delays or quarantine abroad is limited.

If, however, travel to China is deemed necessary, the CDC offers the following guidance:

  • Consult with a doctor prior to travel if you have any health-related concerns;
  • Avoid traveling while sick (traveling with a fever from an unrelated condition could result in increased screenings and other travel issues);
  • Expect additional screenings at airports and transit hubs – allow for extra travel time;
  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
  • Practice good hygiene through frequent handwashing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment;
  • Prevent close contact with live or dead farm or wild animals; and
  • Enroll for international travel medical insurance with GeoBlue.

Furthermore, travelers with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing and wash hands).

Signs and symptoms of this illness include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. If you traveled to Wuhan and feel sick, you should seek medical care right away. Students can access the University’s Health Services offices in Evanston or in Chicago. Faculty and staff members who experience symptoms should contact their primary care providers to discuss symptoms and travel history. The immediate health risk to the American public is considered low at this time. 

All travelers, domestic and international, should be aware that precautions are being instituted at major transportation hubs throughout Asia and in major U.S. cities, including O’Hare International Airport, to prevent the spread of the virus.

Community members traveling to China for essential, university-related purposes should notify the Office of Global Safety and Security of their travel plans well in advance of departure. Regardless of destination, Northwestern policy requires all undergraduate and graduate student travelers to register their travel with OGSS and to obtain international health insurance from GeoBlue. For more information on travel registration, refer to the Undergraduate Student Travel Policies or the Graduate Student Travel Policies. 

Please contact the Office of Global Safety and Security if you have any questions about current or future travel.

Questions related to heath or healthcare should be directed to medical professionals.