3 in Va., including Mason student, suspected of contracting coronavirus

State health officials say one person in Northern Virginia may have been exposed to he deadly coronavirus, respiratory outbreak first detected in Wuhan, China.

The patient is identified only as a George Mason University student that recently returned from China.

Virginia Department of Health statement| Currently, Virginia is investigating three residents in the central (2) and northern (1) regions of Virginia who meet both clinical and epidemiologic criteria for 2019-nCoV. Beginning January 27, VDH will post the number of Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) who meet both clinical and epidemiologic criteria for 2019-nCoV testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the VDH novel coronavirus webpage. To protect patient confidentiality, specific details about these patients will not be provided. Public health is working closely with these patients and anyone who was in close contact to prevent the spread of illness.

VDH is also reminding Virginians that there are steps everyone should take to prevent respiratory illness – especially with the influenza (flu) and respiratory disease season underway in Virginia. These include getting a flu vaccine, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, staying home when sick, and taking flu antivirals as prescribed.

In the case of the George Mason student, university officials say it’s unclear right now if the student has contracted coronavirus.

George Mason University statement | The University is aware of reports regarding a GMU student returning from China who is exhibiting symptoms similar to those of the novel coronavirus you may have heard about in the news. This information is being shared on social media and communicated within social and academic networks at Mason.

There is a possibility that these illnesses are not due to the coronavirus but may instead be a cold, flu, or other illness. While VDH awaits test results on these individuals, public health will work closely with these patients and anyone who was in close contact with them to ensure monitoring and precautionary measures are put in place to prevent the spread of illness.

Virignia Department of Health statement continued | Common coronaviruses can cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illness, like the common cold. Public health officials are still learning about 2019-CoV and how it affects people.

Some people who have become ill with 2019-CoV have had mild symptoms. Others have had more severe illness, including some deaths. Symptoms include fever, cough, and trouble breathing, and can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure. Although 2019-nCoV is spreading between people in parts of Asia, scientists do not yet know how easily it spreads.

Closely related viruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) mainly spread from person-to-person through close contact or respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

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