On Wednesday, one day after it was announced two Miami University students who went home to China for the holidays, showed potential symptoms for the deadly coronavirus, the Oxford campus appeared calmer with fewer students seen wearing protective masks over their mouths.
Some Miami students said they felt reassured Tuesday after Butler County and state medical officials said there was a “low risk” of contacting the airborne virus that has killed more than 100 people in China. There have been five confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and none in Ohio.
Those same health officials are continuing to wait for results for two Miami University students tested for the new coronavirus, but until then they are in a “holding pattern.”
Officials expect test results for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 24 and 48 hours of the CDC receiving three samples — a blood draw, nasal swab and respiratory sample — from the students on Wednesday morning, Melanie Amato, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health, said Wednesday afternoon.
Amato said the samples were overnighted to the CDC in Atlanta, Ga. on Tuesday.
The two Miami students who were tested are being isolated in their off-campus residence, and Butler County General Health District officials are continuing to check in with them, Amato said.
The students, who traveled home to China over the six-week break between semesters, returned to Oxford for the start of classes Monday and showed potential signs and symptoms of coronavirus. Officials declined to say where the students live or release their names or ages.
Jennifer Bailer, health commissioner of the Butler County Health District, said she interviewed the students and they didn’t need to be hospitalized. If the tests are positive, the students will be treated in much the same way if they have the flu, she said.
Until the results are known, Bailer said students and residents should frequently wash their hands, avoid touching their nose and eyes, cover their mouth when they cough and sneeze and don’t go to work or school if they’re ill.
A Miami men’s basketball game scheduled for Tuesday and women’s basketball game scheduled for Wednesday were postponed, said Gregory Crawford, president of the university. He said that decision was made by the opponents and the Mid-American Conference and not by Miami officials.
University officials said they do not anticipate canceling classes or any on-campus activities.
The Miami system enrolled 2,334 students from China in fall 2019, which makes it by far the largest foreign student population. The No. 2 country is Vietnam, with 108 students enrolled at Miami. Students come from 82 countries, according to the school.
About a dozen Miami University Regional campus students in Hamilton and Middletown list their residence near the area in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China where the outbreak began in December, according to school officials. It’s unclear how many of those students returned home for winter break and how many remained in the U.S.
Cheryl Young, assistant provost for Global Initiatives at Miami, has worked at the university for 36 years, and during that time, has dealt with several crises, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Young said she received several calls from concerned parents of Miami students from the U.S.
“One mother said her daughter rooms with a girl from China,” Young said. “I told her there was nothing to worry about.”
Young said more than 10 percent of Miami’s undergraduate and graduate students are international. She said Miami has partnerships with high schools and colleges in China.
Every summer, Young said, groups of 10 students from China, accompanied by a teacher or professor, spend several days on the Oxford campus as part of the Global Partner Summer School. She said the high school and college students learn the English language during the day, then go sight-seeing in the evening.
In 2008, when many Ohio colleges and universities were struggling financially, Miami made a concerted effort to recruit international students, especially in China, Young said.
She said the American higher education system is considered “the best” in other countries so parents want their children to study in the U.S., then return home to use the knowledge.
Young called Miami “a very global university.”
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Atrium Medical Center in Middletown began screening patients exhibiting cold and flu symptoms about their travel history. Patients who are identified to be at risk of exposure to coronavirus will undergo additional screening, said Dr. Jill Aston, medical director of Atrium’s Emergency Trauma Center.
If the patient has traveled to China and exhibits flu-like symptoms, the hospital and local health officials will collaborate on next steps. This procedure started Wednesday morning at all Premier Health locations, she said.
Aston said with society being transcontinental it was “just a matter of time” before signs of the coronavirus arrived in the U.S.
Miami has set up a call center for those seeking more information. That number is 513-529-9000.
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