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The Benjamin School students kept home after model UN trip where Chinese student fell ill

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Posted at 9:25 PM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 19:16:42-05

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The Benjamin School is taking precautions after 30 high school students and three teachers attending a Yale Model United Nations in Connecticut may have been exposed to a student from China who had become ill with the flu and is being tested for coronavirus.

On Tuesday morning, Chief Development Officer Juan Carlos Fanjul said in a written statement that, "At this point, we are keeping our students and teachers home until we get the all-clear from the CDC on the student in question from China."

At least until test results come back at midweek from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, affected students and chaperones will stay away from the Palm Beach Gardens campus, the school said in a news release Monday night.

The North Palm Beach Campus is for the lower and middle schools, which did not have students at the event, which began Thursday.

The Benjamin School said 1,800 delegates from over 40 countries from around the world were alerted Saturday by Yale that an unidentified student became ill.

The student, whose location in China wasn't released, was quarantined and tested positive for influenza. The student also was tested for 2019-nCoV, also known as coronavirus, which mainly has been concentrated in mainland China. Wihan in central Hubeiprovince specifically has been the epicenter of the outbreak.

The Sunday sessions at Yale, including closing ceremony, were canceled and Benjamin students returned home that evening.

Benjamin administrators, as well as the school's school’s medical directors, Dr. Anne Matese and Dr. Thomas Matese, have been closely monitoring the spread of the coronavirus as well as the protocols outlined by the CDC and state/federal departments of public health.

“We have been in contact with officials from the health department," Matese said. "We have determined that the risk of potential transmission of the coronavirus to our students is exceedingly low. Out of an abundance of caution, we are requiring students and chaperones who attended the Yale Model United Nations event to stay home from school today."

According to Dr. Paul Genecin, who is Yale Health director, an initial test result suggests the student has influenza rather than coronavirus infection. The student, who exhibited cough and fever, was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital, and “does not exhibit severe symptoms,” Genecin said in the statement.

The patient has been released from the hospital but has been isolated pending the CDC’s diagnosis, Genecin said.

Patients with the coronavirus typically suffer pneumonia-like symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms show up two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC.

People who may have had contact with a person confirmed with the disease should closely monitor health for for 14 days, the agency said.

The CDC has confirmed five cases of the virus in the United States: two in California, and one each in Arizona, Illinois and Washington state.

The Benjamin School said it is monitoring the "students" health as our top priority," according to a school news release.

The State Department is encouraging Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to China and to not travel to the Hubei province.

The only deaths have occurred in mainland China with 100 reported. Also, there are 2,714 confirmed cases there.