FAQ: Stanford’s response to and prevention of 2019 Novel Coronavirus

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  • Release Date: 01/24/2020
  • Area: Occupational Health Center
  • Type: Announcement

Updated: January 30th, 2020

Since December 2019, there has been emerging public health concern regarding an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus, 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. 

Stanford University is actively monitoring the developing situation with respect to the spread of the disease and potential impacts to university functions.


  • 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, is a novel, or new, respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Learn about 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

    Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that typically cause mild respiratory infections, although they can result in more severe disease, as seen in past years with SARS and MERS. This "novel coronavirus" is a strain that had previously not been found in humans, and its health impact is currently being closely monitored internationally, nationally, and locally, by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.

  • The current evidence is that most cases (~80%) appear to be mild. 2019-nCoV symptoms include respiratory complaints such as fever (38°C/ 100.4 °F), cough with shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. Those with chronic underlying medical conditions appear to be at high risk for serious complications. 

    Runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, and diarrhea are NOT common symptoms.

    2019-nCoV Symptoms.

  • Initially, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting the virus likely emerged from an animal source. Coronaviruses often circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats. 

    The incubation period, or the time from which someone is exposed to their onset of symptoms, is most commonly reported to be in the 2-7 day range, but may range from 1 to 14 days for 2019-nCoV.  This means that it could take up to 10-14 days for someone to exhibit symptoms after they are infected.

    Person-to-person is the primary source of transmission. Based upon available information, it appears that very close contact with respiratory droplets from someone who is symptomatic (fever, cough) is the main source for transmission-simply walking by someone who has traveled to the affected area does not pose a risk.

    It is currently unknown if individuals not experiencing symptoms (possible carriers) are able to infect others. This is currently being closely investigated by CDC and WHO. 

  • No. There have been no identified cases of 2019-nCoV in the Bay Area or at any Stanford campus. 

    There have been a few cases of 2019-nCoV in the United States. Johns Hopkins has developed a map that tracks the scope of the 2019-nCoV outbreak.

    Resource: Johns Hopkins Map Tracks Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Stanford is working closely with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, and in line with recommendations from the CDC.  We are actively monitoring the developing situation with respect to the spread of the disease and potential impacts to university functions.

    Stanford’s Public Health Policy Committee (PHPC) develops policy on various public health issues affecting the Stanford community, including Stanford’s response to novel coronavirus. The PHPC is a collaborative effort facilitated by Stanford’s Environmental Health and Safety Department, Occupational Health Center, and Vaden Health Center. Members of the Public Health Policy Committee focusing on 2019 novel coronavirus include:

    • Department of Emergency Management
    • Department of Public Safety
    • Land, Buildings & Real Estate (LBRE)
    • Office of International Affairs
    • Office of Risk Management
    • Office of Student Affairs
    • Office of University Communications 
    • Office of the Provost
    • Office of the General Counsel
    • Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE)
    • SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    • Stanford University Occupational Health Center
    • Stanford University School of Medicine
    • University Human Resources
    • Vaden Health Center

  • Currently, Stanford classes, events, and other campus activities are continuing without interruption. 

    For groups hosting events:  Events requiring incoming travelers from mainland China should be reconsidered. Given challenges with travel to and from mainland China, including flight cancellations and critical infrastructure disruption, strong consideration should be given to postpone events where visitors are required to travel from mainland China. 

    For all events, a ll attendees should self-monitor for fever, cough, and other symptoms and stay home or isolate if ill. Anyone arriving from mainland China should refrain from attending campus events until 14 days have passed since their departure from China or until cleared by the Stanford University Occupational Health Center or Vaden Health Center after a medical review.

  • Stanford University is concurring with CDC recommendations that travelers avoid all non-critical travel to China. University department heads are responsible for approving business-critical travel to China.

    There are many current challenges with travel to and from China. There are a number of current and predicted flight cancellations by major carriers. Currently China is conducting port-of-exit screening, so people exhibiting symptoms are not allowed to leave the country and may be placed in quarantine. 

    Travelers from China may be subject to enhanced screening measures when entering other countries through airports and seaports leading to delays and potential quarantine for those with illness. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and other U.S. airports continue to screen passengers arriving from China for symptoms associated with 2019-nCoV.

    CDC’s travel health notices related to this outbreak.

  • For all Stanford community members and immediate family/housemates: if you have returned from travel to mainland China in the last 14 days, we ask that you self-isolate, working or studying from home, until 14 days have passed since your return date. This includes all individuals, including children, with or without symptoms. 

    If you are an employee, please first notify your supervisor and then call the Stanford University Occupational Health Center for an initial phone consultation appointment with a physician. If you are a student, please contact Vaden Health Center for a phone consultation. The timing of return to work and/or class will be determined after this medical review.

    During this 14-day monitoring period, supervisors are highly encouraged to adopt flexible work arrangements, permitting telecommuting and teleconferencing to allow employees to work from home.

  • If you were in China and feel sick with fever (38°C/ 100.4 °F), cough, or difficulty breathing, within 14 days after you left China, you should:

    • Seek medical advice right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
    • Students should immediately notify Vaden Health Center , and employees and postdocs should notify the Stanford University Occupational Health Center.
    • Avoid contact with others.
    • Not travel while sick.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

    Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

  • Stanford Students: Call your healthcare provider or Vaden Health Center for advice.

    Stanford Employees and Postdocs: Call your healthcare provider for personal health concerns, or the Stanford University Occupational Health Center for work-related health concerns. 

    What if I am not feeling well?

    • Stay home when you are sick. Do not report to work or attend classes if you are ill.
    • If you are ill, it is highly likely that you have either a cold or the flu. The number of active influenza cases is currently very high, and over 10,000,000 (ten million) people in the U.S. have been sick with the flu this year.

  • Prevention measures are similar to those utilized against the common cold and flu, which are currently circulating in high numbers in California.

    • Get a flu shot. We strongly recommend that everyone obtain seasonal flu vaccination. While it will not prevent 2019-nCoV, influenza is currently in widespread circulation in California, and initial symptoms can be similar to novel coronavirus. Any illness right now can increase anxiety and concerns. Members of the Stanford community can contact the SU Occupational Health Center (Stanford employees) or go to Vaden Health Center (Stanford students) to get a flu shot.
    • 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.
    • Don’t share food and drinks.
    • Clean and disinfect shared surfaces and objects that are touched frequently (e.g. door knobs, desks, phones).
    • If you can, avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

    2019 Novel Coronavirus Prevention and Treatment.

    Resource: Illness Prevention Flyer.

  • Given the current risk, Stanford is not recommending the use of masks beyond that outlined by CDC for protection in a healthcare setting.

  • Stanford CAPS is dedicated to Stanford student emotional health and can be reached 24/7 at 723-3785.  Faculty, staff, and postdocs can contact the HELP Center at 723-4577.

    Santa Clara County maintains an anonymous crisis line that is available 24 hours, 7 days a week, at 1-800-704-0900 (Mental Health Services).  

    SAMHSA’s Distress Helpline (related to any natural or human-caused disaster) is accessible 24/7 at 1-800-985-5990 or via text (send TALKWITHUS to 66746; Press 2 for Spanish).

  • Governmental Resources

    • WHO: Novel Coronavirus
    • CDC: Situation Summary 2019 Novel Coronavirus
    • OSHA: Novel Coronavirus 
    • Santa Clara County Department of Public Health: Novel (new) Coronavirus

    Other Resources

    • NPR: Amid Coronavirus Scare, U.S. Counts Thousands Of Flu Deaths (Audio)

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