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New strain of coronavirus is putting local universities on high alert

George Mason confirmed Monday that one student was being tested for the new strain of coronavirus. UMD is implementing heavier cleaning in common areas.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — The new strain of coronavirus continues to spread beyond the center of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, with five confirmed cases in the U.S. 

For that reason, many universities in the DMV are closely watching both their students studying abroad and those on campus.

George Mason University confirmed late Monday that one of its students was being tested by the CDC for coronavirus. 

In a letter to students, the University confirmed that "the individual in Northern Virginia is a Mason student, does not reside on campus, and is self-isolating while laboratory testing results are processed."

"At this time, the current risk to the public and the Mason community remains low, and the university has been advised that additional precautions are not necessary," the statement continued.

RELATED: George Mason University confirms a student is being tested for new strain of coronavirus

Students on campus started taking precautions, such as wearing surgical masks, after a social media post from an anonymous poster circulated over the weekend stating, "a student from Wuhan at GMU is not feeling well and has quarantined himself/ herself."

"I'm just doing this to avoid being sick," one student said. 

At the University of Maryland, they're cleaning campus buildings, shuttle buses and residence halls more frequently, according to a campus advisory.

RELATED: Maryland resident being tested for new strain of coronavirus

American University currently has eight students studying in Beijing.

University spokesperson Kelly Alexander said via e-mail, "At this point we do not have any plans to bring them back to the U.S., but we are monitoring the situation carefully. The Beijing program is scheduled to end on April 26." 

Three Georgetown University undergrads are also in Beijing. A school rep said they're in constant contact with the students, and that International SOS, a company that provides emergency medical, travel and evacuation services if needed, has been made available to its overseas students. 

At George Washington University, a spokesperson said they've been in contact with all of their students abroad.

"GW has messaged all of our students studying abroad, both those studying in China and those in other countries," GW spokesperson Crystal Nosal said. "Students were encouraged to stay aware and seek the most up-to-date information from their programs about the changing conditions while in the country or traveling through the region. Information and safety alerts about the newest strain of coronavirus were shared. Students were also given a list of resources should they need them, including websites being updated with the most current health advisories. The health and welfare of our community members is our utmost priority." 

RELATED: NIH helping develop coronavirus vaccine at Bethesda headquarters

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