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App State, Samaritan’s Purse Have Traveling Protocol in Place to Prevent Bringing Coronavirus to the High Country

By Nathan Ham

People probably wouldn’t think about small towns such as Boone when it comes to the 2019-nCoV Coronavirus entering the community. However, with Appalachian State University offering an exchange program to Wenzhou University in China and the numerous natural disasters that Samaritan’s Purse travels to supplying aid and comfort, it suddenly becomes something that will cross your mind.

Both App State and Samaritan’s Purse have been well ahead of the curve in avoiding international contact in locations where the Coronavirus has been spreading.

“We suspended study abroad programs in China earlier this semester and the students who came back to the U.S. have been here for several weeks. While the Appalachian Community currently faces very little risk, compassion is key as many people on our campus and beyond have loved ones in areas of far greater concern,” said Megan Hayes, Associate Vice-Chancellor and Chief Communications Officer at Appalachian State.

Wenzhou University in China has an exchange program and study abroad program agreement with Appalachian State. The school is over 10 hours away from the Wuhan Province where the Coronavirus first appeared and started to spread.

Appalachian is also prepared should the virus find its way to campus.

“Appalachian State University’s emergency response team routinely monitors situations that could affect the campus and consistently engages campus and community groups in year-round preparation for a number of scenarios, including the spread of communicable diseases. We have been working closely with AppHealthCare, the UNC System and with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to monitor the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and prepare in the event it should affect our campus. These partnerships are invaluable, and we will continue to work closely with local and state public health entities to protect the health and safety of the Appalachian Community,” said Hayes. “Our planning and preparation are in accordance with the CDC’s latest guidelines and recommendations, and include coordination with many units across campus, including housing, dining, health services, facilities and maintenance, and communications.”

Hayes says that the campus has increased the frequency of cleaning in public areas, and are ensuring EPA-registered hospital disinfectants are being consistently used to clean residence halls, classrooms, offices, public spaces and other facilities and equipment.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to follow simple yet effective prevention measures, such as handwashing, staying home when you are sick, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue.

Samaritan’s Purse is no stranger to dealing with disease outbreaks across the globe. The non-profit organization based in Boone has worked to treat the sick and deliver much-needed supplies across the world. In 2014, Kent Brantly, who is the medical missions advisor for Samaritan’s Purse, contracted Ebola during his time in Liberia when he was helping treat sick people there. Brantley recovered after being evacuated to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Brantly ended up returning to Africa in 2019 to continue his medical mission work.

With the Coronavirus outbreak, things are being handled a little differently this time.

“Our current policy is that staff may not travel to or through China until further notice. In addition to this, our medical outbreak specialist is closely monitoring the virus. All Samaritan’s Purse country offices are aware of the situation and have been provided with education on the symptoms and techniques to prevent the virus,” said Kaitlyn Lahm, Assistant Director of Marketing and Media Relations at Samaritan’s Purse.

The organization has still been able to make a difference overseas. Samaritan’s Purse donated 78 pallets of medical supplies and personal protective equipment to Hubei, China in response to the coronavirus. The State Department facilitated the delivery of these items.

“Samaritan’s Purse is grateful for the opportunity to provide aid to families in need. Please pray for everyone affected by this deadly virus,” Samaritan’s Purse said in a statement.

According to AppHealthCare and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, there have been no confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV Coronavirus anywhere in the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • 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 using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
  • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wearing a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing website.

For information specific to healthcare, see CDC’s Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. CDC does have specific guidance for travelers.