You are here: American University Student Affairs Student Health Novel Coronavirus Update

Student Health Center Offices of Campus Life

January 27, 2020

Dear Members of the AU Community,

Over the past week, there has been considerable news coverage of a new strain of a virus which has been referred to as 2019 Novel Coronavirus. This new strain of Coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China but has since spread to three other continents over the past week. While there have been no cases identified in the DC area as of today, it is possible that viral infections with 2019 Novel Coronavirus will be seen throughout the United States over the next few weeks. 

In order to address some of the concerns raised by American University community members, we have developed a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs). It is important to remind AU community members that knowledge and news around this virus is rapidly evolving, even on a daily basis. The current information and recommendations available today could be different over the next few days. AU community members with further questions are encouraged to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

The direct url is:


1. What is the 2019 Novel Coronovirus?

Human coronaviruses commonly cause mild to moderate illness in people worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring developments around an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Symptoms of this virus include cough, congestion, runny nose, sore throat, low grade fever and shortness of breath.  These symptoms are also seen in a common cold, influenza and a myriad of other viruses. Just because a person has these symptoms does not mean that they have 2019 Novel Coronavirus, even if they came from an area of the world where this is epidemic. There are no treatments for this virus. It generally runs its course just as influenza or a cold would. The incubation period for these types of viruses is typically 10 to 14 days.

2. What advice are you giving to members of the AU community regarding 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

We are following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the DC Department of Public Health. The WHO has an information page with advice for the public on reducing the risk of transmitting the virus.

The direct url is:

If we identify a member of the AU community (student, staff, faculty) who has recently been in China or one of the other affected regions and is having symptoms associated with the coronavirus, we will take appropriate steps to minimize the chance of spreading the virus and will follow the health department’s guidance on testing and further interventions. 

Any member of the AU community who has traveled to the affected area within the last 14 days and is experiencing symptoms as described above must contact their health care provider and notify Dan Nichols, the AVP for Risk Management at 202-885-2534 immediately.

Students concerned about their health can visit the Student Health Center located in McCabe Hall or call the Center at 202-885-3380, or you can contact the 24-hour nurse advice line at 833-381-8545. Staff and faculty should consult with their health care provider.

Faculty, students, staff who are having more significant symptoms of difficulty breathing or shortness of breath need to be seen in an emergency room. These cases will likely be rare but that could indicate a more severe infection (similar to influenza pneumonia).

Students, staff and faculty who are ill - no matter the cause - are encouraged to stay home and to communicate by email to relevant parties (professors, supervisor, etc.) to let them know they are sick.   

3. Are AU Community members prevented from visiting affected areas?

The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan.

4. What are the precautions being shared with those who may be traveling or studying in affected areas?

AU’s Office of Risk Management has been providing guidance to community members. Again, the advice echoes the guidance from the WHO and the CDC. Those public health agencies emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

For more information, please visit the CDC website.

We will continue to closely monitor the situation.


David S. Reitman, MD
Medical Director, Student Health Center
American University

Dan Nichols
Assistant Vice President, Safety and Risk Management
American University