CONTACT: Elaine Ray, News Service: (650) 723-7162, firstname.lastname@example.org
COMMENT: Dr. Ira Friedman, Vaden Health Center: (650) 725-1365, email@example.com
Gene Awakuni, Vice Provost for Student Affairs: (650) 725-1808, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stanford prepares for visitors from SARS-affected areas and creates device to track students' SARS exposure
Stanford University has updated its website devoted to information about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The site provides answers to frequently asked questions students, faculty and staff may have regarding SARS and includes a link to guidelines for visitors from SARS-affected areas. The university also has developed a confidential, web-based form designed to track students' travel history and possible exposure to SARS.
The main website, first launched in April at www.stanford.edu/dept/ucomm/sars/, provides information on the symptoms of SARS and detailed steps individuals should take if they experience those symptoms or have had close contact with a SARS patient. It also provides answers to questions members of the Stanford community might have regarding the disease.
The university has been monitoring developments related to SARS since March. Officials have published guidelines for university departments and other units that may be hosting guests from SARS-affected areas. They also have made several cottages available in the event that someone suspected of having SARS needs to be isolated. To date, there have been no cases of the disease on campus.
"Stanford is a community with many international students, and our students, faculty and staff travel extensively," said Dr. Ira Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center. "Our community remains open to international visitors, guests and students, and we are taking prudent steps to keep it a safe place."
Commencement visitors and other policies regarding SARS-related travel
The university has not developed any blanket policies barring travel to or visitors from SARS-affected areas, including those coming to campus for Commencement. However, visitors and other individuals coming here from those areas are asked to monitor their health before they travel. Only those who are symptomatic or who have had close personal contact with a SARS patient within 10 days of travel should not make the trip.
"We are asking that family members and other Commencement guests from SARS-affected areas follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their local health authorities. Specifically, if they have symptoms consistent with SARS or in the past 10 days have had close personal contact with a suspected case of SARS, they should not make the trip. If they do travel here, they should monitor their own health for 10 days, including taking their temperature twice a day. At the first sign of symptoms consistent with SARS fever, cough, trouble breathing they should isolate themselves and notify us at Vaden Health Center. These instructions are spelled out in detail on the website," Friedman said.
Family members who are staying in on-campus guest housing may be asked about their exposure and symptoms when they check in. If family members will be staying in a student's dorm room, the host must have his or her roommates' consent and also should inform the resident fellow or residence dean of the visit in advance.
The guidelines that apply to Commencement guests also apply to those who attend campus conferences and camps. The university's visitor guidelines are designed to assist conference planners in determining whether to host an event attended by visitors from SARS-affected areas and the steps to take to ensure the health and safety of the campus community once they arrive. The visitor guidelines are available at www.stanford.edu/dept/ucomm/sars/visitor_guidelines.html.
Campus community members traveling to SARS-affected areas should consult the university's travel policy, located online at www.stanford.edu/dept/ucomm/provost/travel.html. While the university leaves most travel decisions to the individual's discretion, it does prohibit Stanford-sponsored or university-organized trips involving undergraduate students to countries where a State Department travel warning has been issued or where there is other reliable information of significant health or safety risks.
Student travel or exposure reporting form
In accordance with recommendations issued by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, the university also has developed a confidential, web-based form designed to track students' travel history and possible exposure to SARS.
The form, launched Wednesday, will ask students to report whether in the previous 10 days they or any of their dependants have traveled to a SARS-affected area or have had close contact with someone known or suspected to have the virus. The site, which will continue to be active when new and returning students arrive Fall Quarter, is available to students with a SUNet ID at www.stanford.edu/group/vaden/sars/.
"We are setting up a way for students to report their recent travel at the request of public health officials, both at the CDC and locally. It is another mechanism to be sure that prevention information and instructions are getting into the hands of those who need it. Also, having a way for students to report their travel or other potential exposure to SARS helps us at the university to use our clinical and residential resources most effectively, and to reach out to students as needed," Friedman said. "Using a website makes possible centralized reporting with ease of access. Since it is open only to students, it can be secure, private and confidential."
While university officials strongly encourage students to complete the form, reporting is voluntary and students should be aware that the information may be supplied to public health officials as required, Friedman added.
Gene Awakuni, vice provost for student affairs, said: "We hope students understand that we have developed this site primarily to ensure their health and safety, as well as the health and safety of the campus community. We continue to encourage students, faculty and staff to educate themselves about the symptoms of SARS."