The state Department of Public Health (DPH) and the University of Massachusetts Boston reported on Saturday that a UMass student recently returned from Wuhan, China, is the first Massachusetts resident to be diagnosed with the 2019 novel coronavirus.
Meanwhile, DPH reports that as of Jan. 25, the state has seen 4,000 "laboratory confirmed" cases of the flu this season, which is only a small fraction of the likely total cases since most people who show up at their doctor or ER with flu-like symptoms, do not have lab testing done to confirm their cases.
DPH reported that UMass student, a man in his 20s, came back from Wuhan and, after feeling ill, immediately contacted a doctor. The man "has been isolated since that time and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials," DPH said in a statement.
The department added that "his few close contacts have been identified and are being monitored for any sign of symptoms."
In a memo on Saturday to the UMass community, interim Chancellor Katherine Newman said that because the new strain of the coronavirus is spread similarly to the flu - and can have similar symptoms - people should take the same precautions they might with the flu: Wash hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, avoid touching one's eyes, nose and mouth, avoid close contact with sick people and don't share eating utensils, water bottles, e-cigarettes and makeup with others.
Newman added that anybody who goes to and returns from an affected area should immediately contact a doctor should they develop respiratory symptoms or a fever within 14 days of their return.
"I want to remind everyone that all members of our community are valued and respected. On occasions like this, it is possible for fear to get the better of any of us. Let's remember that viruses are no one's fault and anyone can find themselves ill. We all want to be treated with care and compassion, especially when we fall ill. Our campus will conduct itself with its bedrock values in mind as we continue to ensure the health and safety of our entire community."