Health Alert: Feb. 14, 2020

To: The Washington and Lee Community
From: Dr. Jane Horton, Director, Student Health & Counseling
Date: Feb. 14, 2020
Re: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This is a health alert regarding a new coronavirus (COVID-19) that originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The COVID-19 causes respiratory illness, sometimes severe, such as pneumonia, and has resulted in death in some individuals who are infected. It has since spread outside of China, with a number of confirmed cases in the U.S. in individuals who have recently traveled to China. The threat to the Washington and Lee University community is considered low at the present time, but that may change over the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. Since information regarding this disease is changing quickly, we advise you to check the CDC website for the most up-to-date details and guidance.

If you are a student with the following symptoms:

  • Fever and cough with difficulty breathing


  • You have been to mainland China within the past 14 days OR you have had close contact with an individual infected with COVID-19 within the past 14 days,

please call the Student Health Center (540-458-8401) before you go there or to the ER or Urgent care for medical evaluation. You will be asked to wear a mask to protect others while you are being evaluated.

Similarly, if you are a faculty or staff member with these symptoms, and you have traveled to mainland China or have had close contact with an infected individual, you should call ahead and seek medical assistance through your primary care physician.

The best preventative steps for any communicable disease include simple but important measures to practice as part of your daily routine:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds or more with soapy water frequently throughout the day.
  • Avoid sharing anything that has come in contact with saliva, such as utensils, food and drink.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue.
  • Get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals to ensure a healthy immune system.

If you are planning international travel over the next several weeks, you should monitor this situation closely. At present, the CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. The U.S. Department of State has issued a level 4 "do not travel" advisory for all of China.

All travelers from China, including business travelers, people who visited friends and family, and humanitarian workers should take the following steps:

First, watch for any changes in your health for 14 days after leaving China. If you get a fever or develop a cough or difficulty breathing during this 14-day period, avoid contact with others. Call your doctor or healthcare provider to tell them about your symptoms and your recent travel. They will provide further instruction about steps to take before your medical visit to help to reduce the risk that you will spread your illness to other people in the office or waiting room, if that is what has made you sick. Don't travel while you are sick.

W&L officials will continue to monitor this situation and provide additional information if this advice changes.