PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Chinese exchange student may have contacted the coronavirus while en route to the U.S. Philadelphia health officials are now investigating the possibility of a coronavirus case at William Penn Charter School in East Falls.
The department is working with the school, regional and state partners using guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if it is actually a novel coronavirus case.
School officials say a group of 18 students and three chaperones from China arrived at the Penn Charter campus last Tuesday. The exchange group left from an airport near their home on Jan. 16 and flew into Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, where the coronavirus was first identified. From there, the students transferred planes and took a direct flight to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
One of the Chinese exchange students began to feel unwell at the end of last week. A representative from the health department says he’s in a bedroom away from everyone else. And when outside, he wears a mask to make sure the virus isn’t spreading.
The test results are expected within days but the school says the student’s symptoms have not worsened and the student is now feeling better.
“Health officials have informed the school that the exposure time in Wuhan was limited and it is important to know that many other common respiratory viruses are circulating in China and here in the United States at this time, so the student’s illness is more likely to be caused by one of those viruses,” the school said in a statement.
The health department says “the risk from this novel coronavirus to Philadelphians is low.”
“The risk to Philadelphians right now is very low,” Philadelphia Department of Public Health James Garrow said. “There isn’t a lot that’s known about the coronavirus. Scientists all over the world are trying to learn as much as they can about how easily it spreads, the incubation period. A lot of that stuff is still unknown. So it’s in our best interest to keep an eye on these students that could potentially have this and keeping them away from other people and practicing good respiratory etiquette.”
The exchange students are expected to head back to China next Tuesday.
Coronavirus, which is similar to a common cold and spreads the same way, causes severe respiratory symptoms and a fever, just like the flu.
CBS3’s Alecia Reid contributed to this report.