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It’s Corona time: multiple coronavirus reports in Tampa

by Lindsay Price

The University of Tampa has decided to cancel its travel abroad programs to China due to growing concerns over the novel coronavirus. The disease has infected thousands in China, and due to warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and the State Department, the UT International Programs Office decided that the best course of action was to alter their plans.

Marca Marie Bear, associate dean of International Programs, explained that the safety of the students was the top priority. The risk level for international locations varies, but the travel advisory to China guided UT’s judgment. The program to China was replaced by the option to study in Singapore.

“The health and safety of our campus community is of utmost importance to us. If a U.S. State Department level three or four advisory is in effect during the planning phase or for the dates of intended travel, the course will either be relocated or canceled,” said Bear. “In the case of the Travel Course to China, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)] elevated its warning ‘to avoid all nonessential travel.’  As a result of this recommendation, the University relocated this course to Singapore.”

The first two cases of the coronavirus were reported in Florida last week, with one of those cases in Hillsborough County and the other in Manatee County. The case in Hillsborough County had recently traveled to a region of Italy where an outbreak of the disease is present and is said to be in stable condition. UT is taking pre-emptive steps to keep students informed on the pathogen’s spread and to monitor the situation. The administration is receiving updates from the CDC and the Hillsborough County Health Department.

Gina Firth, associate dean of Wellness, explained that the coronavirus can cause respiratory illness. Symptoms include fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing, and it can spread from person to person. Most cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. have been travel-related, so those who are traveling over spring break are at the highest risk of contracting the virus.

“With Spring Break approaching, all members of the UT community are encouraged to be particularly vigilant about hygiene when traveling,” said Firth. “Due to the nature of this outbreak, precautions are being taken at international airports. The best prevention is frequent handwashing.”

Firth added that standard precautions for the flu season should be taken. These measures include avoiding close contact with others, covering the mouth and the nose when sneezing or coughing, and disinfecting hard surfaces in shared spaces. She said that anyone experiencing symptoms should contact their healthcare providers.

“Outbreaks of any new virus infection among people are always of public health concern. If you have symptoms, you should not leave your home, except to get medical care,” said Firth. “Do not go to work, school or public areas, and do not use public transportation or taxis.”

Students who think they may be experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus are advised to contact the Dickey Wellness Center to make an appointment. For any students who plan to travel, UT’s international medical travel insurance can be found by contacting abroad@ut.edu.

Lindsay Price can be reached at lindsay.price@spartans.ut.edu

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