Novel coronavirus information

January 27, 2020

Three UW students in Seattle screened for novel coronavirus

Sent on behalf of the University’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases

Dear members of the UW community,

The University was notified by Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) that three students from the UW’s Seattle campus are being screened for the novel (new) coronavirus. These three students recently traveled to Wuhan, China, and developed symptoms after returning. One person lives off campus, and that student’s test was negative for infection. Two students live in on-campus housing and are awaiting their test results. These are not confirmed cases. The two students awaiting test results are being monitored by PHSKC and have moved to isolated housing until they are cleared by PHSKC.

While awaiting test results, the University is working closely with PHSKC to ensure precautions are taken to minimize risk to the campus and others in the community. Testing is a precautionary measure, and PHSKC anticipates most persons tested will not have the infection. None of the UW students were hospitalized, and all are doing very well.

As of January 26, there is only one case of confirmed novel coronavirus infection in Washington state. It is in Snohomish County and is not related to the UW community.

We are asking everyone — and, importantly, students in communal living situations, including on-campus housing, fraternities and sororities — to take steps we always recommended to protect yourself and others, and to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, especially during cold and flu season:

  • Stay home when you are sick to prevent others from being exposed to your illness.
  • If you see a health care provider for fever and cough, ask for a surgical mask to help prevent spread of infection when in the health care setting.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and immediately dispose of the tissue.
  • Wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.

If you have recently traveled to Wuhan, China, (within 14 days) and are having fever and respiratory symptoms (such as coughing or shortness of breath), contact your primary care provider. Call your health care provider before arriving so they can prepare for your visit.

UW-related travel

This coronavirus outbreak began in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. A number of countries, including the United States, have been actively screening incoming travelers from China. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised their travel advisory to a level 3: CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan. If you have questions about UW-related travel to or from an area with confirmed cases of coronavirus, please contact the UW Office of Global Affairs.

Coronavirus information

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing respiratory illness in people and others circulating among animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread among people. Several coronaviruses cause the common cold. Other types of previous coronavirus outbreaks have included severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The CDC states that the current risk to the American public of becoming infected with this novel coronavirus is low.

How to get additional reliable information

The University’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases is monitoring the outbreak in coordination with PHSKC. The committee will provide updated information to the campus community as the situation evolves.


Geoffrey S. Gottlieb, M.D. Ph.D.
Interim Chair, UW Advisory Council on Communicable Diseases
Medical Director, UW Environmental Health & Safety Department
Professor of Medicine – Infectious Diseases
Adjunct Professor of Global Health
Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Infectious Diseases