As the novel coronavirus travels and spreads from Wuhan, China, Lehigh University and the city of Bethlehem are implementing measures to ensure the safety of the community in the midst of the recent outbreak.
David Rubenstein, executive director of the Health and Wellness Center, said he has been in constant communication with the Bethlehem Bureau of Health and continues to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We are evaluating every student that walks into the Health and Wellness Center and following the CDC guidelines in terms of screening those students for travel history, fever, lower respiratory symptoms,” Rubenstein said. “(We are also following) their guidelines in terms of follow-ups and seeing if samples need to be sent off to them (CDC) or if self-isolation is necessary, depending on the kind of symptoms they are having.”
The Health and Wellness Center also has measures in place to deal with a possible case of the disease.
Although there are currently no cases of the coronavirus on Lehigh’s campus, Rubinstein said some faculty members have reached out expressing concerns about students with particular travel histories or certain symptoms. The Health and Wellness Center continues to have communications with those specific students of concern.
“The CDC has established clinical criteria to guide health care providers in determining which patients to evaluate as a ‘Patient Under Investigation,’’ said Sarah Stevens, medical director at the Health and Wellness Center.
Stevens said if students meet certain criteria, the Health and Wellness Center will speak with the Pennsylvania Department of Health about recommendations for further evaluation.
If a student is experiencing symptoms that could be consistent with the coronavirus, Stevens said the Health and Wellness Center recommends self-isolation until they obtain testing for other possible causes of the symptoms.
Rubenstein said screening students with symptoms is the best way to comprehensively evaluate them while focusing on general campus health.
Stevens said the CDC is currently the only place that does testing for the coronavirus.
She said the Health and Wellness Center is working with the university to find a way to accommodate students who are sick, instructing them not to attend class.
“If you have a fever or the flu, you should not be going to class,” Stevens said. “We get it, you are all a very dedicated bunch. However, it is important to stay home and not infect other people.”
The recent outbreak of the coronavirus has also impacted international students in the community who may have loved ones near the origin of the disease.
Manyi Guo, ‘23, is from Wuhan, China, where her family currently lives. She said while some people back home are receiving hospital treatment for the virus, her family is healthy.
Guo said she continues to take a more positive outlook regarding the situation back in Wuhan.
“From the social media, it is clear that there are outrageous statements of fear that continue to spread,” Guo said. “But situations have two sides. On one side, this outbreak has caused many deaths. On the other hand, this outbreak has created business opportunities for internet developers. The outbreak seems to be a little more under control now, and I hope that soon it will be over.”
Lori Friedman, director of media relations, said the Office of International Affairs is maintaining communication with students and families impacted by the travel ban.
“Certainly, we are balancing privacy along with precautions and communicating as much as possible with the campus,” Friedman said. “It’s worth keeping in mind that we respect and value the contributions by students from all over the world. A virus has no nationality.”