Fears about the coronavirus–also known as 2019-nCoV–are spreading, as evidenced by the U.S. stock market’s precipitious drop Friday. And although a case of the virus has not been reported anywhere near Saucon Valley, the school district is heeding a recommendation by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) official for U.S. schools to share information about the virus with families.
The publication Education Week reported Tuesday that CDC director Nancy Messonier said in a teleconference with media that parents should “ask your children’s schools about their plans for school dismissals or school closures” and “ask about plans for teleschool.”
According to Education Week, Tuesday’s CDC warning marked “an abrupt shift in tone from the agency, which has largely remained circumspect about the threat level for the U.S.”
However, it also noted that “a few hours later, federal officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, sought to downplay the urgency of the earlier warning from CDC officials.”
According to published media reports, the first U.S. death from the coronavirus occurred Friday in Washington state. The individual who succumbed to the virus so far has not been named publicly.
Statistics published by the CDC indicate that as of Friday, Feb. 28, there were a total of 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., twelve of which were travel-related and three of which were from person-to-person contact.
“The outbreak first started in Wuhan, China, but cases have been identified in a growing number of other international locations, including the United States,” the CDC noted on its site, where statistics about the virus are updated Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The states with confirmed cases so far are Washington, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois and Massachusetts.
If a suspected case in Monmouth County, New Jersey is confirmed this weekend, it would be the closest confirmed coronavirus case to eastern Pennsylvania.
In his email to parents Friday, Saucon Valley superintendent Dr. Craig Butler stressed that there have been “no reports of any cases of the 2019-nCoV involving a Saucon Valley School District student or employee.”
“The Saucon Valley School District is committed to providing a safe learning environment for our students and we are closely monitoring the outbreak of respiratory illness from a new strain of coronavirus named 2019-nCoV,” Butler said. “We are monitoring several sources of information regarding the virus. In addition, we have received guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and other state and local agencies.”
Butler said CDC recommendations include one that “students who are sick should stay home, and families should consult their pediatrician or health care provider.”
The symptoms of 2019-nCoV “can be very similar to the flu and include a mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath,” his email noted. “The suspected incubation period is believed to be from two to 14 days.”
Although there is currently no vaccine to prevent infection, individuals can take precautions issued by the CDC to help prevent the spread of all viruses, including:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Staying home when sick
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throwing the tissue in the trash
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched objects and surfaces
Butler said Saucon Valley’s custodial staff are “working diligently to ensure that our facilities are properly cleaned on a daily basis.”
“Please consider discussing the CDC preventative care recommendations with your family to help prevent the spread of any virus,” he said. “Our district nurses are carefully monitoring our students for symptoms. Should you have any questions regarding student illness in school, please contact the nurse’s office at your child’s school.”