Government officials in Rock County and beyond say they’re keeping an eye on the spread of the coronavirus, which reportedly has killed more than 80 people in China and sickened hundreds more.
No cases of infection from the virus have been confirmed in Wisconsin.
China is the biggest country of origin for international students in the U.S.
The Janesville School District hosts 31 students from China, where the illness was discovered.
Robert Smiley, the district’s chief information officer, said some of the students went home over Christmas break, but they returned well before the coronavirus outbreak.
“I want people to understand these children are not a threat,” Smiley said.
All those students are from Zhangjiagang, a city of about 1 million, and as of Monday, no cases of the virus were reported there, Smiley said.
Zhangjiagang is about an eight-hour drive from Wuhan, the city where the virus was first reported, according to Google Maps.
Zhangjiagang is considered a minor city and is less of a travel hub than the much larger Wuhan, Smiley said.
Smiley said the students are 17 years old and living far from home, so officials have reached out to them to make sure they weren’t overly worried about their families.
“They’re our kids. We are caring for them as if they are our own, and part of that is to say, I’ll bet they’re a little concerned about what’s happening with my mom, my uncle and so forth,” Smiley said. “They’re fine right now, but we do care about them, and we care about their families.”
The district would offer support to any student if such concerns arise, he added.
UW-Whitewater issued a statement Friday saying no suspected cases involving members of the UW-W community were known and that officials are “closely monitoring the situation.”
UW-W staff and students were asked to contact the university’s risk management office if they have traveled internationally recently or intend to do so.
Michelle Bailey, assistant director of the Rock County Public Health Department, said in an email Monday that, “We are interested and monitoring the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, especially given it is a rapidly changing situation.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that a Chicago-area woman in her 60s had contracted the virus. She had recently returned from Wuhan.
The Centers for Disease Control reported Monday that five U.S. residents have tested positive for the virus so far.
The CDC plans to update its map of coronavirus infections daily on its website, which is available at gazettextra.com/coronavirus_usa.
Six people were tested for the virus at various locations around Wisconsin, officials from the state Department of Health Services said in a conference call Monday.
Only one test result was known, and that person did not have the virus.
State officials would not say where those people live, citing privacy concerns, and said information would be released if it were needed to protect residents.
Meanwhile, a viral infection with similar symptoms that also has the potential to kill—influenza—is making its annual rounds. The state Department of Health Services reports “high levels” of “influenza-like illness” in most of the state as of Jan. 18.
Prevention for influenza and coronavirus is similar, including covering coughs and washing hands or using hand sanitizer, officials said.