What You Need to Know About Coronavirus

News subtitle

Questions, answers, and up-to-date information regarding the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Dartmouth campus winter aerial
(Photo by Robert Gill)

Dartmouth officials continue to monitor federal and state guidelines concerning the novel coronavirus in order to provide up-to-date information on evolving recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NHDHHS).

As new information becomes available about the virus, this FAQ will be updated.

Dartmouth has a team that meets as an emergency-planning group in cases such as this. Representatives from a number of offices, depending on the situation, take part in the meetings. The current group includes representatives from the offices of the president and provost, safety and security, communications, and offices that deal with foreign travel, programs, and visitors. Dr. Mark Reed, director of the Dartmouth College Health Service, leads the group.

It is Dartmouth’s goal to ensure the health and safety of the College community. All members will be treated with care and compassion, especially those who fall ill.

Update: Feb. 6, 2020

Important consideration concerning spring term travel:

Students should be aware that travel waiver requests will not be approved for travel to mainland China or Hong Kong during spring term due to the coronavirus outbreak in China and ongoing civil unrest in Hong Kong. In order to receive academic credit or Dartmouth funds, travelers must have an approved travel waiver for travel to a country identified as requiring a waiver. See the Global Dartmouth website for the most up-to-date information on travel restrictions.


Update: Feb. 4, 2020

If you have just returned from China:

If you have traveled to locations in mainland China within the past 14 days, even if you do not have a fever or symptoms of respiratory illness such as a cough or shortness of breath, you should isolate yourself for a period of 14 days from your last day of travel in China and monitor yourself for fever and respiratory illness.

If you have traveled in the past 14 days to locations in Hubei Province, China—the province where the virus is thought to have originated and which has experienced the most widespread transmission—you should isolate yourself and contact the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services right away at 603-271-4496; after hours, call 603-271-5300. State public health officials will assist you in monitoring your health.

This does not apply to individuals who have recently traveled to Hong Kong or Macau.

How do I isolate myself?

Self-isolation means staying home from school or work; keeping a distance of more than 6 feet from household members or roommates; avoiding public places, especially mass gatherings and events, public transportation, stores, church, parties, etc.; and avoiding further travel until your 14-day monitoring period is over.

Individuals who are in self-isolation will ideally have a private room and bathroom, a private entrance, and access to food and other essentials in order to avoid public places such as dining halls.

What if a visitor or other individual coming to campus appears to be ill?

Visitors experiencing symptoms of illness may be referred, for evaluation, to a local hospital or urgent care clinic for evaluation, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center,  Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, and ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care, all of which are located in neighboring Lebanon, N.H.

Should labs or departments confirm the travel histories or health information of visitors to campus?

It is not recommended that independent action be taken to screen visitors for illness or for recent travel history. Dartmouth College Health Service and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center are screening those seeking care. Visitors who feel ill may be referred to a health care center for evaluation. Feel free to share the link to this FAQ with visitors so they are aware of Dartmouth’s recommendations and the precautions we are undertaking in accordance with NHDHHS guidance.


Update: Feb. 2, 2020

Dr. Mark Reed this evening sent an email to all faculty, students, and staff notifying the community that a new recommendation from the NHDHHS says that all individuals who have traveled to locations in China should isolate themselves for 14 days from their last day of travel in China. This includes people who have no symptoms of coronavirus. Those who have developed a fever or respiratory illness symptoms within 14 days of travel to China should contact the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services at 603-271-4496.

Self-isolation includes avoiding public settings and travel; restricting activities outside of the home, except for medical care; staying in a specific room away from others and using a separate bathroom if possible.

The NHDHHS is asking anyone who has traveled within the last 14 days to locations in Hubei Province in China—where the coronavirus is thought to have originated—to contact the state public health office at 603-271-4496 in order to be more actively monitored. This includes people who have not developed symptoms of the virus.


What is coronavirus and where did it come from?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses, some of which cause illness in people, and others of which circulate among animals. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 was a type of coronavirus, as was Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2013. The current virus is referred to as novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) because it is a type of coronavirus that had not been previously identified.

The 2019-nCoV was first identified in December in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring.

How is the virus spread?

Some viruses, such as measles, are highly contagious. Others, less so. At this time, it’s unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people. Based on current information, the CDC considers this is a very serious public health threat. However, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time. Here’s information from the CDC on the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses. Because this virus is so new, scientists are still learning the basics about it—how it acts and spreads, and how severe it is. Most respiratory illnesses are spread when an infected person has symptoms, such as coughing or sneezing.

What are the symptoms of this virus?

Confirmed cases of the illnesses have ranged from people being mildly sick to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The CDC believes at this time that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or up to 14 after exposure.

It’s important to remember that we are in the midst of cold and flu season. If you have not been in China, it is unlikely that you have been infected with 2019-nCoV. By comparison, influenza can be a serious illness. The CDC estimates that since 2010, each year between 9 million and 45 million have the illness and between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths are attributed to the flu.

What precautions should I take to guard against coronavirus?

There is no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection. The CDC recommends everyday actions to help prevent the spread of any type of respiratory virus, including washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; and staying home when you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

What should I do if I think I’m sick?

If you were in China in the past 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, please seek medical care right away. Dartmouth students should contact Dick’s House, at 603-646-9400 and faculty and staff should contact their primary care provider. Before going to a health care appointment, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. Also, avoid contact with others. Don’t travel while sick.

If you develop fever or respiratory illness within 14 days of travel to or from China, contact the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services at 603-271-4496.

What precautions is Dartmouth taking to guard against coronavirus?

Consistent with CDC recommendations, the Dartmouth College Health Service and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center are screening those seeking care for cough and fever and asking about recent travel to affected areas.

What if I am planning to travel to China in the near future?

The U.S. Department of State has elevated its China travel advisory to a “Do Not Travel” level for all of mainland China. In accordance with this advisory, Dartmouth-sponsored travel to China is prohibited at this time. China is now included on Dartmouth’s list of countries for which a travel waiver is required. See the Global Dartmouth website for the most up-to-date information on travel restrictions.

On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus to be a global health emergency. The next day, the United States declared the virus a public health emergency and announced that temporary travel restrictions would be put in place beginning Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. Individuals traveling from China who are able to enter the U.S. will be screened at ports of entry according to CDC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection enhanced health screening protocols.

Is there anything we can do to accommodate those who may have difficulty traveling to campus from China?

Dartmouth offices should accommodate requests to change in-person interviews to remote interviews if asked by applicants from China seeking Dartmouth positions or entry to schools or programs. The candidates should be reassured that a distance interview will not negatively affect their application. Employees and students who have recently been in China and are instructed to isolate themselves should contact their supervisor, professor, or dean to let them know that they will be affected and to determine the details of an alternate work arrangement.

How is Dartmouth supporting community members who may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak?

We recognize that students, faculty, staff, and members of their families may be affected by this outbreak. We urge anyone who would like to speak to a counselor on their own behalf or out of concern for someone else to contact our available resources: the Faculty/Employee Assistance Program, the Office of Counseling and Human Development, the College chaplain’s office, or the undergraduate dean on call. Assistance is available 24 hours a day, every day. For help, call Safety and Security at 603-646-4000.

For more information:

Dartmouth College Health Service

Global Dartmouth

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Office of Communications