RELATED: Symptoms, prevention, and how to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak in the US
In a letter to families, the district wrote officials are working closely with the Wake County Department of Human Services, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The district said county and state health officials directed school leaders to maintain their routine cleaning procedures in schools. "They've stressed to us that we should approach the coronavrius (COVID-19) the same as influenza," district leaders said in the letter.
In a news conference Thursday, Hearther Lawing, a spokesperson for Wake County Public School System, said they are not in a state of emergency, and they will refer to government agency guidelines to determine how to handle students and staff who have traveled internationally.
"It is up to the CDC, not our school staff, to assess and monitor international travelers," Lawing said. "If a traveler has not been quarantined, they are welcome in our schools."
Lawing said the district is currently making plans for how the district would deal with a potential outbreak.
"We are making contingency plans should the situation escalate," she said.
However, Lawing said because the district already has a flu plan in place, they are well prepared for other respiratory illnesses.
"This isn't new to us," Lawing said. "We go through a flu season every year. So these are things that we regularly do. We have posters up throughout our schools. We have information on our website. So that is something that we are very used to monitoring and dealing with."
Durham County Public Schools said in a statement that it is in "constant contact with our partners at the Durham County Department of Public Health.
"We have a standing preparedness and response plan for pandemic flu that we would activate, with any necessary modifications, if called for," DPS added. "In cooperation with state and local health departments, our objectives would be to reduce transmission of the virus, minimize illness, maintain mission-critical operations and services, and minimize disruption of instruction."
Several central North Carolina universities are canceling study abroad programs and banning students from non-essential travel to China.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus likely emerged from an animal source but now seems to be spreading from person-to-person.
"We've been working proactively on early detection and containment of infections and then with the formalization of the governor's task force two weeks ago that took us to another stop to be more forward thinking to do the things the CDC recommended yesterday," said State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson said in a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
NCDHHS CORONAVIRUS PREVENTION RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water, and for at least 20 seconds each time.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.
Symptoms are similar to the flu and typically cause mild to moderate respiratory illness.
Coughing, fever, and shortness of breath are common symptoms.
The North Carolina Division of Public Health has established a call line at (866) 462-3821 to address general questions about coronavirus from the public.
Tilson also encouraged businesses and schools to review policies and procedures for infection prevention. She also urged the public to be "thoughtful about what you read or hear about the virus" and separate rumor from fact before taking action.
The footage used in this article is archived footage, stay tuned for an updated video.