Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that originate in animals but are known to cause respiratory illness in humans, particularly during the fall and winter months. Other novel coronaviruses have included Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). In January 2020, a novel (new) coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified as the cause of an outbreak of pneumonia originating in Wuhan. The provincial government provides updated statistics for Ontario.

What are the symptoms of novel Coronavirus?

Symptoms range from common to severe respiratory illnesses and include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing

Many of these symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza. Should you experience these symptoms AND have recently travelled internationally to an affected region, avoid contact with others and follow-up with your health care professional. Advise your health professional in advance of attending clinic of your symptoms and travel history.

What is the risk?

The Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk associated with 2019-nCoV as low for Canada. The situation is rapidly evolving and the University is taking its guidance from public health agencies at the local, provincial and federal level, who are closely monitoring the outbreak, conducting surveillance and appropriate laboratory testing, and providing public health and infection control guidance.

To date cases have been reported in individuals who have been in Wuhan, China, and those who have had personal contact with infected individuals. The risk of more severe illness may be higher for individuals with weakened immune systems such as older people or chronic diseases such as diabetes, or heart, renal or chronic lung disease.

What can I do to protect myself?

As usual, continue to practise good hand washing techniques and hygiene practices. This includes washing thoroughly with soap and water, using hand sanitizer, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and staying at home or in your residence room if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Should students, staff or faculty with flu-like symptoms attend class/work?

As usual, those with flu-like symptoms, who have not travelled internationally to an affected region, should stay at home or in their residence room.

Those who have questions or concerns, who have travelled internationally to an affected region, and do not have symptoms, should call Telehealth Ontario: Toll-free 1-866-797-0000 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007).

Individuals should stay home and contact the Middlesex-London Health Unit at 519-663-5317 if they have a fever (38° Celsius or higher) and are sick with symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, congestion, aches, pains AND any of the following:

• Travel to Wuhan, China within 14 days of becoming ill; OR
• Close contact with a person who is sick and has been to Wuhan, China within 14 days of becoming ill; OR
• Close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with Novel Coronavirus 2019
If you have any of the conditions above, stay home and do not go to work, school or other public areas until you are no longer sick. If it is necessary to go out while you are ill (for example, to attend a medical appointment), please wear a surgical mask over your nose and mouth, and use a private vehicle for any necessary travel.
If you experience severe symptoms such as chest pains or shortness of breath, call 9-1-1 immediately or visit your nearest hospital emergency department.
If you do not have a fever or are not sick, but you travelled to Wuhan, China recently, there is no need to visit a doctor at this time. However, if you develop fever, cough, or difficulty breathing in the next 14 days, call the Health Unit at 519-663-5317 and tell them you were travelling in Wuhan, China. 

Students should continue to report illness as they usually do.  Students in residence should inform residence staff. For staff, please report your absence promptly to your supervisor per normal practice.

As it is also influenza season, you may want to purchase the following items to keep on hand as a precautionary measure:

  • Over-the-counter medication to reduce aches and fever (e.g., acetaminophen or ibuprofen)
  • Cough medicine and throat lozenges
  • Any prescription medicines you take
  • A thermometer (non-mercury)
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer (should contain at least 60% alcohol)
  • Disinfecting wipes or cleaning products to clean your shared and personal space
  • A water canteen or bottled water, and juice

Should staff or faculty with flu-like symptoms be excluded from work?

While no one should be excluded or banned from attending work, the University encourages staff or faculty who are ill with flu-like symptoms to advise their supervisor/manager, stay home and recover or seek medical advice accordingly.

Should students with flu-like symptoms be excluded from class?

While no one should be excluded or banned from attending classes, the University encourages students with flu-like symptoms to stay home and recover or seek medical advice accordingly. Students who are unable to complete some component of a course due to illness should consult Western’s Academic Considerations website.

Should anyone with a travel history to an affected region be excluded from class/work?

No one should be excluded or banned from attending classes or work. Students, staff and faculty with symptoms who have visited the affected region recently should contact their health care provider. If you have severe symptoms causing distress contact emergency services. At this time, the risk of contracting novel coronavirus is low.

Will classes be cancelled?

Classes are continuing as normal at this time.

Should we be canceling events?

At this time, there is no significant risk of community transmission of the novel coronavirus in Canada. Should the situation change, we will provide advice on this website.

Should I wear a mask?

For general, day-to-day activities, there is no need to wear a surgical or N95 mask. The Middlesex-London Health Unit advises residents to take the usual measures to reduce the risk of influenza and other respiratory infections:

  • Get a yearly flu vaccination, available from clinics and pharmacies as this is the best way to prevent influenza infection
  • Clean your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze
  • If you don't have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm
  • Stay at home if you are sick.

Those in health care settings will follow the requirements of their facilities with respect to appropriate protective gear if they are working with suspected or confirmed cases.

I am in a health care setting (eg. hospital, dental clinic). Are there additional precautions I should take?

Western students who as part of their education programs interact with patient populations will not be engaged in providing care to individuals exhibiting symptoms in any of the four categories of patient care:

  1. Person under Investigation for 2019-nCoV
  2. Probable Case for 2019-nCoV
  3. Presumptive Confirmed Case for 2019-nCoV
  4. Confirmed Case for 2019-nCoV

Nursing students

Nursing students will not be part of the circle of care for persons exhibiting symptoms in any of the four categories of patient care as noted above. They will also have the personal protective equipment information they need while at London Health Sciences Centre to be safe while on placement, even if they are not part of the circle of care. 

Dentistry learners, faculty and staff

The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario released new recommendations for screening protocols for dental professionals and practices. In consultation with Dr. Sidney Siu, Schulich Dentistry has adopted updated screening protocols, in alignment with Ministry of Health recommendations. These protocols are to be followed by all learners, faculty and staff engaging with patients. Additional screening will now be taking place in all our Schulich Dentistry clinics. Telephone screening will occur at the time of booking appointments and in person.

Appointments will not be booked for any patient who may be exhibiting symptoms of the 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) (fever, new cough, difficulty breathing), and who has travelled to the Hubei Province in China in the past 14 days; or who has been in contact with a confirmed case of the virus, or been in close contact with a person with acute respiratory illness who has been to the Hubei Province in 14 days before the onset of symptoms. If a patient meets the criteria, learners, faculty and staff are asked to report the information to Dr. Rae Dorion, Assistant Director, Clinical Affairs and Steve Rolland, Operations Manager.

Patients who arrive for their appointments who also meet with the above mentioned criteria will not be seen. Learners, faculty and staff are asked to report to Dr. Rae Dorion, Assistant Director, Clinical Affairs and Steve Rolland, Operations Manager.

Schulich Dentistry has an obligation to report suspected cases to the Middlesex-London Health Unit. This will be coordinated by Dr. Dorion and Steve Rolland.

Medicine MD Program learners

The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry undergraduate medical (MD) students in any year of clinical learning will not participate in an assessment, treatment or follow-up care of individuals exhibiting symptoms in any of the four categories of patient care exposure as noted above. 

Public Health Ontario has outlined all aspects of patient care, prevention of transmission, investigation and management for 2019-nCoV on their website.

I am affected by travel restrictions and cannot return to Canada. What should I do?

If students are unable to return to the University as a result of the travel restrictions, they should contact Western International at

I am planning to travel in the coming days. What should I do?

Students planning to travel to China should cancel or postpone their trip. For students currently in China, we encourage you to contact Western International at Continue to monitor developments and updates by visiting Western’s Safety Abroad website and International SOS country profiles (Western’s membership number is available;here).

If you are travelling to a destination other than China, you should anticipate heightened screening measures and related disruption at international and country/territory borders even if you have not travelled to China recently. Some countries/territories have also implemented travel restrictions, which mainly impact travellers who have recently visited China, but can affect all travellers.

Staff and faculty may refer to the Government of Canada’s travel advisory website.

What if I feel unsafe in the workplace or have concerns about someone else who is ill in my work area?

If you are concerned about someone in the workplace who is ill and exhibiting flu-like symptoms or have concerns about safety in your workplace, please speak with your supervisor/manager. Supervisors/managers are advised to contact Workplace Health at Western at 519-661-2047. Employees in the workplace who are ill with flu-like symptoms should advise their supervisor/manager, stay home and recover or seek medical advice accordingly.