This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP

SACO — Officials at Thornton Academy in Saco are keeping an eye on the coronavirus and are reviewing all international visits and are cancelling or postponing them as appropriate, according to Headmaster Rene Menard.

Menard sent a letter to Thornton Academy families Jan. 29. The private day and boarding school, which also serves as the public high school for Saco, has a number of international students.

“You have likely seen information about a new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the news and on social media,” Menard wrote. “We know this kind of news can be worrisome and concerning and are writing to assure you that the safety and well being of our students is our top priority. In light of this evolving situation, Thornton Academy has observed heightened monitoring of global health experts (including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization). We are following best-practice recommendations to protect the health and safety of our school community.”

Menard said the school physician and the epidemiologist from the Maine Center for Disease Control has been consulted.

“We have been assured that their only concern lies with any person with a direct link to Wuhan, China, in the past two weeks,” said Menard. “After a careful review of student travel, we can assure you that none of our students have a direct link to Wuhan in that time frame.”

The school would continue to monitor the situation, he said.


“In addition, all international visits are in review, and are being postponed or cancelled, as appropriate,” Menard wrote.

On  Monday, Feb. 3,  Menard said in an email that only a small number of students had planned to return to their homes in China for February break.

“The students are disappointed that they won’t get to see their families, but both students and parents understand the severity of the issue and what needs to be done to keep everyone safe,” said Menard.

An international outbreak caused by the virus first emerged in China in December, according to The Associated Press. Doctors there began seeing the new virus in people who got sick after spending time at a wholesale food market in Wuhan. Officials said the virus likely initially spread from animals to people, as did SARS and MERS.

The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads, the AP reported.

As of Sunday, Feb. 2, the World Health Organization reported 14,557 cases globally, 14,411 of them in China, though some organizations were reporting higher numbers. A Feb. 3 update by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 11 cases in the U.S. at that time.

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory against travel to China on Jan. 31.

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