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University of Illinois takes steps to protect students amid coronavirus concerns

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020  |  Article  |  By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square

Education--Higher (37) , Health (49)

School officials have taken steps to protect students on the University of Illinois campus amid concerns about the new coronavirus from China.

The Champaign-Urbana campus is home to more than 5,800 students from China. When the outbreak began, Dr. Robert Parker at the campus’ McKinley Health Center contacted each student from the particular area of China where the virus was prevalent. He said that, as of last week, nine students said they were previously feeling ill but not one had been flagged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as potentially having the respiratory illness.

“We had only processed two as far as state review and neither of them had passed muster with the CDC,” he said. 

At one point, Parker said nine students had reported symptoms similar to that of the novel coronavirus, but all were ruled out. All students who had recently returned to campus from China had passed the 14-day window during which symptoms would have shown up.

The students, Parker said, largely went above recommendations and kept a low profile if they felt any symptoms.

“It’s been striking how concerned the students are about not only themselves, but about each other,” he said. “A number of these students have maintained a low profile during that 14-day window just to ensure they wouldn’t possibly harm other students or other faculty members.”

Eric Jome, a spokesman with Illinois State University, said colleges like theirs and the U of I have to pay extra attention to outbreak information like this. 

“You’ve always got to be watching with that, especially when you have large concentrations of people living in one area,” he said, adding that officials had contacted the Chinese student body and faculty about the issue. 

The U of I, along with most other universities in the state, announced in January that they were closing their campuses in China and canceling school-sponsored trips there. 

The Illinois Department of Public Health said as of Monday that 49 Illinoisans have been tested for the virus, three are awaiting CDC test results and two have been confirmed.