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~Update regarding Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)~


Commencement, Summer School and
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

A message to the Wellesley College community from Michelle Lepore, Interim Dean of Students, and Vanessa Britto, M.D., Director, Health Services

At this exciting time of transition, Wellesley College seniors are eagerly anticipating Commencement activities, and undergraduate students are anxiously looking forward to summer experiences in locations around the globe. The College also acknowledges the challenges and concerns many students and their families face as they plan for these activities. At the forefront of many minds are concerns regarding the College's position on Commencement, Summer School activities, and how they relate to the condition known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

SARS is a respiratory tract infection linked to a novel form of the coronavirus. The syndrome produced by this infection has been reported in more than 28 countries around the world, including the U.S. Several areas of the world have been disproportionately affected by SARS, however, including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, and Toronto, Canada. As has been noted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the U.S., only a small number of suspected or probable cases of SARS have been detected among exposed health-care personnel and household contacts of SARS patients. Casual contact with SARS patients at schools, other institutions, or public gatherings (e.g., attending the same class or meeting) has not resulted in documented transmission in the United States.

Wellesley Follows CDC Guidelines

Wellesley College's position regarding SARS has been and will continue to follow the guidelines issued by the CDC concerning this problem. The information about SARS is emerging at a very rapid pace, hence, the College feels it is most important to adhere to recommendations that are based on as much reliable information as is available rather than develop its own, unique standards. At this time, the CDC does not recommend quarantine of persons arriving from areas with SARS.

No Restrictions on Commencement or Summer School

Given the multiple levels of international screening and other comprehensive activities in place to prevent importation and spread of SARS, the College has placed no restrictions on upcoming Commencement activities or on-campus summer school programming. We do, however, strongly advise all of our students, their guests, and visitors to adhere to the following:

  • As a simple, general rule, the first level of defense against almost all infectious processes involves regular, careful hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

  • Students, guests and visitors arriving from areas affected by SARS must understand the critical importance of continuing to monitor their health for 10 days after their arrival. All should be reminded of the yellow health alert notice received upon arrival in the U.S.

  • Students are strongly encouraged to email or forward this information as well as the CDC ( and World Health Organization (WHO) ( websites to their guests traveling from SARS-affected areas for the most up to date and accurate information.

  • Commencement and reunion guests, visitors, and students arriving from SARS-affected areas are urged to monitor their health for a temperature of >100.4F (38.0C), a cough, difficulty breathing, or symptoms of pneumonia.

  • If no symptoms emerge, normal participation in social activities, school, work, etc may continue.

  • If any of these symptoms are noted, a consultation with a health provider is imperative. In order to perform an evaluation appropriately, however, the health provider must be contacted before the symptomatic individual arrives. Although the Wellesley College Health Service will not be able to treat guests and visitors, the Health Service will assist in contacting the appropriate health facility.

  • During Commencement, Wellesley College Health Service personnel and EMT's will be visibly stationed in the front and back areas of the tent. Should a health care concern arise during the ceremony, they will be on hand to assist or answer questions.

  • Through Commencement, May 30, 2003, any Wellesley College student who suspects exposure to SARS based on her symptoms and pertinent contact or travel history should contact the Health Service right away in order to arrange an appropriate evaluation.

  • From May 31 thru June 16, 2003, students' inquiries regarding SARS-related symptoms should be directed to Newton Wellesley Hospital in Newton (617- 243-6193) or MetroWest Medical Center, Natick campus (508-650-7400).

  • During summer school, from June 16 thru August 9, 2003 the Health Service will have limited summer school hours from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

A travel alert informs travelers of a health concern in a particular area and provides advice about specific precautions that should be taken.

A travel advisory notifies travelers of potentially more serious situations and advises that non-essential travel be postponed.

As of May 9th, there are CDC travel advisories recommending that individuals who are planning nonessential or elective travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan consider postponing their trip until further notice.

As of May 9, the CDC has downgraded its travel advisories to travel alerts for those traveling to Toronto, Canada; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Singapore, Malaysia.

Click here for updated travel information from the CDC web site.

People arriving in the U.S. from SARS-affected areas of the world (who could have inadvertently been exposed to SARS) are receiving information about SARS at various points of entry, are being instructed on how to monitor their health, and being told what they should do if they become ill. The CDC recommends that these travelers monitor their health by measuring their temperature and note any respiratory symptoms such as a dry cough, shortness of breath, or symptoms of pneumonia.


When traveling to those areas with travel alerts, it is important to take precautions such as practicing good hand hygiene (frequent washings with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub) and avoiding close contact with large numbers of people as much as possible.


If recent travelers from reported areas note the onset of fever (Temp >100.4) along with respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, dry cough, or pneumonia within 10 days of travel, a medical professional should be contacted first and an evaluation obtained. There does not appear to be any report of developing symptoms without having first been exposed to someone who was symptomatic.

Documented Temperature greater than 100.4 AND
Cough, difficulty breathing, or pneumonia AND
Travel within 10 days of symptom onset from a reporting area


Close contact (defined as caring for, having lived with, or being indirect contact with respiratory secretions) within 10 days of onset of symptoms with a person known to be a suspect SARS case

It appears that the natural history of SARS is such that the fever may be associated with chills, headache, or body aches. Over the next 2-10 days symptoms of dry cough, shortness of breath, and possibly pneumonia may be noted.


The coronavirus felt to be responsible for SARS seems to be most efficiently transmitted via respiratory droplets. Hence, covering the mouth and nose areas when coughing and sneezing are important and good general health measures. Regular and thorough handwashing with soap and water (or an alcohol-based hand wash) is also very important.

If you are concerned

If you have concerns about these symptoms along with a pertinent recent travel history or close contact with someone who has returned from a SARS-reporting area, we urge you to call Health Services (x2810). It is important that you call before coming so that we can address your needs quickly and appropriately.

The Health Service will continue to share information and encourages individuals to monitor the websites of the CDC [] and WHO [] for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Given the rapidly changing health information about SARS, the College will continue to share statements regarding programs and SARS-related travel advisories in a timely and responsible manner.

Other Helpful Resources

Travel Tips for Students
U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings

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