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Berkeley turns away students from SARS-hit regions

Chancellor: Ban will last at least until CDC lifts travel advisories

Chancellor Robert Berdahl meets with Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness Tomas Aragon.
Chancellor Robert Berdahl meets with Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness Tomas Aragon.

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BERKELEY, California (CNN) -- Students from China and other regions of Asia affected by the SARS virus will not be accepted for the summer session at the University of California at Berkeley, the chancellor has ruled.

The ban will apply to students traveling from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, as well as mainland China. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] has cautioned about travel to those nations and issued guidelines for people who do travel there.

"After close consultation with several public health officials and campus experts, and based on the strong recommendation of the city of Berkeley Health Officer, I deeply regret that we will not be accepting enrollments of students from these areas," Chancellor Robert Berdahl said in a written statement issued Friday.

"We look forward to the lifting of the CDC travel advisories so that we can once again welcome all of these students to our campus," he said.

Several hundred international students are being turned away, and the university is refunding their enrollment fees. The school is also prohibiting the use of its funds for nonessential travel to or from Asia by faculty, staff and student organizations.

Berdahl explained in his statement that the university is not prepared to monitor the health of so many incoming students.

"All of these students would have to be monitored for a 10-day period," the time it may take for symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome to appear after a person is infected. "Should any of them develop SARS-related symptoms, the CDC requires that elaborate procedures be implemented that would include isolation and other labor-intensive measures that we are not able to provide currently," he said.

"If the CDC lifts the travel advisories to these areas, then this policy would no longer be in force," Berdahl said.

The fall semester is not included in the ban.

Current students who travel in the affected areas during the summer, as well as newly admitted students arriving for the fall semester, will be required to fill out a lengthy survey detailing where they traveled and their health condition. In addition, they will be monitored by campus health officials for 10 days after their arrival.

Details of the fall program are still being devised, including how the university would handle any confirmed SARS cases.

SARS apparently originated in China, and it has had the biggest impact there. As of Monday, China has reported 4,280 cases, with 206 deaths. Hong Kong has reported 1,637 cases, with 187 deaths. Singapore and Taiwan have been less affected, with 204 cases and 26 deaths in Singapore, and 116 cases and eight deaths in Taiwan.

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