January 31, 2020

Dear Marist Community,

The World Health Organization has officially declared the Wuhan coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern.  Currently 9,709 cases are confirmed worldwide.  We wanted to let you know that the College is closely following this and although there are currently no cases reported locally, we continue to monitor this evolving situation.   

As with other infectious diseases, we are following guidelines from our local department of health and national health organizations. 

General Information:

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses.  Historically, most coronaviruses that infect people usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold. However, at least two previously identified coronaviruses have caused severe disease, including the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak of 2003.

The exact mechanism of spread is not known yet, but based on other coronaviruses, it is suspected that person-to-person spread occurs through respiratory droplets, similar to how the flu and other respiratory germs spread.  If an infected person sneezes or coughs onto a surface and another person touches that surface and then rubs his or her eyes or nose, that person may get sick.  Or if an infected person covers their sneeze with their hand and then touches a door handle, the virus could be left on the handle for someone else to pick up.

Signs and Symptoms of Illness:

Signs and symptoms of this illness are similar to most respiratory illnesses: fever, cough, body aches, sore throat, etc.  More severe cases can include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

This illness should be suspected in patients with significant symptoms and a travel history to Wuhan in the prior 14 days or close contact with someone who is confirmed or under investigation for this illness.  In general, it should be noted that the majority of the Marist community are far more likely to be impacted by the Influenza virus than this coronavirus. 


No specific antiviral treatment is recommended for this infection.

People infected with this virus should receive supportive care during the illness.


The CDC recommends the following to decrease the spread of all respiratory viruses:

  • 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 with at least 60% alcohol content.  It is important to note that hand sanitizers are not effective against all germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay 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.
  • Do not share household items such as dishes, glasses, utensils, towels, bedding.

On the Poughkeepsie campus, the housekeeping department has already been notified of Influenza cases on campus and has been requested to focus disinfection work on high-touch areas (door handles, handrails, etc).  Hand sanitizers are already available on campus and more are being added in common areas such as the Student Center.  Currently, 15 million Americans have been sickened by the flu this year alone.  Please follow all safety recommendations identified above.

The most up-to-date information about this virus can be found on the CDC website.

The office of Health Services can be reached at 845-575-3270.

Outside of normal business hours, students on campus can reach the Department of Safety & Security at 845-471-1822 for any health-related emergencies or dial 911. 

Deborah DiCaprio
Vice President for Student Affairs
Marist College