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Novel Coronavirus FAQs

Campus Health Update

(UPDATED Feb. 19, 2020, at 9 a.m.)

The University of South Carolina continues to closely monitor the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) that was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and quickly spread around the globe. Anytime there is an emerging health situation, the university takes rapid action to prepare for any contingency.

As of Feb. 19, 2020, there are more than 75,300 confirmed cases worldwide (58,000+ active cases) and more than 2,000 deaths - including the first American citizen who died in Wuhan, China. So far, more than 15,000 patients have recovered from the virus. 

More than 300 Americans were evacuated from a cruise ship docked in Japan and are in quarantine on military bases across the United States. Fourteen of the evacuees have tested positive for COVID-19. In total, there have been 29 confirmed cases (23 are active) of COVID-19 in the U.S. In addition, there are at least 60 persons under investigation for suspected COVID-19 cases. It is likely that the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. will rise.

There have not been any cases of COVID-19 confirmed in South Carolina. 

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has created a web page with additional information about COVID-19 and its effects in South Carolina.

COVID-19 Factsheet (Spanish) [pdf]

COVID-19 FactSheet (Chinese) [pdf]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers avoid nonessential travel to all of China. In addition, the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and the U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4 Travel Alert urging citizens to not travel to China.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a Public Health Emergency and issued the following travel restrictions:

  • Americans returning to the United States who have been in China’s Hubei province within 14 days will face a mandatory quarantine.
  • Americans returning to the United States from other parts of China will face enhanced screening and a self-quarantine of up to 14 days.
  • Foreign nationals, other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, who have traveled to China within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the U.S.
  • All flights from China will be funneled to seven airports 

The UofSC School of Medicine created a Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) information resource guide with a variety of links to news and reports, as well as clinician resources. 

Below are frequently asked questions about the Novel Coronavirus:

Q: What is the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A: It is a new strain of the coronavirus first detected in China in December 2019 that causes mild to moderate upper and lower respiratory tract illness. In some cases, it can cause severe complications like pneumonia. Early symptoms can be similar to a common cold or the flu and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. So far, the Novel Coronavirus is not as virulent as previous new coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS. 

Q: Are there any known cases of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) at the University of South Carolina?

A: No, so far there have not been any cases of the virus at the university or in the state of South Carolina.

Q: How does one get the Novel Coronavirus?

A: One contracts the Novel Coronavirus from water droplets expelled when a sick person sneezes or coughs. Also, it can spread when one touches a contaminated surface like a doorknob or a handrail and then touches one’s eyes, nose or mouth.

Q: How does one prevent the spread of the Novel Coronavirus or the common flu?

A: To prevent the spread of the flu or the Novel Coronavirus, follow these simple precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Get a flu vaccine.

Q:  What should I do if I see someone else wearing a facemask?

A: In many cultures, people choose to wear facemasks to prevent catching an illness. It does not necessarily mean that person is ill. If you see other students wearing facemasks, it is not cause for alarm or unease.

Q: Should I wear a facemask?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wear a facemask only if you are infected with Novel Coronavirus. While wearing a facemask is commonplace in many cultures, it is not commonplace in the U.S. In American culture, wearing a facemask signifies that you are carrying an infectious disease. The University of South Carolina recommends that you follow CDC guidelines, as well as your own comfort levels regarding whether or not to wear a face mask.

Q: What is the University of South Carolina and Student Health Services doing to communicate updates regarding the virus?

A: We are following all CDC guidelines for the surveillance, prevention, education, diagnosis and treatment of the Novel Coronavirus. Additionally, we are working with campus and community partners to monitor the situation.

Q: What should I do if I believe I have been exposed to Novel Coronavirus?

A: If you have traveled from China in the past 14 days and are experiencing Novel Coronavirus symptoms, you should contact health services at 803-777-3175. It is recommended that those who think they may have been exposed call ahead before going to see a doctor or emergency room.

Q: Should students participate in Study Abroad programs?

A: Currently, China is under a Level 3 Travel Notice Warning from the CDC to avoid nonessential travel. The CDC does not recommend travel to China currently. We ask Study Abroad participants to contact their sponsoring department for information and schedule an appointment with Student Health Services Travel Clinic for the latest health information before traveling to any destination. 

Q: Should students travel abroad for Spring Break?

A: Traveling to China and Southeast Asia for Spring Break is not recommended by the CDC. But, so far there are no high-level travel notices for common Spring Break destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Europe or South America. We always recommend that students talk with their doctor about their Spring Break travel plans at least 30 days prior to leaving to discuss any vaccines that may be recommended or other known health risks. Students can also visit Student Health Services Travel Clinic before going on Spring Break for the latest health information.

Q: Am I at risk of contracting the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV from a package or products shipped from Wuhan City, China?

The CDC reports that because of the poor survivability of the COVID-19 virus on surfaces, there is very low risk of spread from packages or products shipped from China. Currently, there is no evidence supporting the transmission of the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV by imported packages or products.


Additional Information:


World Health Organization Q&A about COVID-19

On February 11, the World Health Organization announced the official name of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.  We will update our website and materials accordingly. Some hyperlinks and URLs will not be changed to preserve links from other websites.

On February 13, Chinese health officials started including cases of COVID-19 that were clinically diagnosed to the total of confirmed cases. This raised the number of cases significantly. Previously, Chinese health officials were only including cases confirmed by RNA tests. 

On Thursday, Feb. 6, State Epidemiologist Linda Bell, MD, met with leaders from hospitals across the state to provide an update about the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s ongoing 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts.


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