BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College has confirmed that a student studying in Italy returned to campus for 24 hours late last week, against the school’s orders. The school responded to sanitize buildings the student visited to reduce the risk of exposure to a respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

Coronavirus, a respiratory disease first detected in China, has now been detected in more than 70 countries, infecting more than 110,000 people and killing an estimated 3,800, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. About a dozen Mainers are being tested for the flu-like coronavirus, or COVID-19, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Six Bowdoin College students were studying in Italy, where there have been more than 9,000 confirmed cases of the virus as of Monday. The students returned to the U.S. but the college said last week none of the students would return to the campus this semester out of caution because of the outbreak.

The Bowdoin Orient reported Saturday, however, that two students had been seen on the campus Thursday. According to the student paper, students studying abroad were sent an email by the college’s director of off-campus study and international programs on March 1 and told not to return to campus this semester.

Mary Baumgartner, the executive director of communications and public affairs for Bowdoin College, said one of the six students was on campus last week.

“All of the students who left Italy were instructed that they are not to come back to campus for any reason,” Baumgartner stated in an email.

She declined to comment on whether the student faces discipline for not following the instructions not to return to campus.

According to a notice on the Bowdoin website, the student returned home and visited the campus from 5 p.m. on Thursday until 5:30 p.m. on Friday, “when we became aware of their presence and they were asked to leave campus and return home.”

The student visited a Brunswick apartment, Chamberlain Hall and the lobby of Coles Tower, according to the letter signed by Matt Orlando and Janet Lohmann, the college’s senior vice president for finance and administration and treasurer and the senior vice president and dean for student affairs, respectively.

“In consultation with our campus physician, we do not believe that there is a significant risk that these students were exposed to the novel coronavirus while in Italy, nor is either student presenting any of the symptoms of COVID-19,” the letter states. “In an abundance of caution, we will be sanitizing the areas of campus that the student who came into campus visited.”

Another of the six students did not return to campus but visited downtown Brunswick last week where they were in contact with another Bowdoin student who lives in student housing.

According to the college officials, the two students returning to Brunswick had left Italy shortly before a level 3 warning went into effect by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday to avoid nonessential travel to Italy.

Because the six students who were all in Italy have returned home, Baumgartner said she doesn’t know if any have been tested for the coronavirus. To her knowledge, none have displayed any symptoms. Spring break started Friday and ends March 23.

Another of the six students was in a separate program in Italy in which a student from another college has tested positive for the COVID-19. The Bowdoin College student has not had any symptoms and has been isolated a home.

As of early Monday afternoon, no one has tested positive for the virus in Maine.

Judy Kelsh, a spokeswoman with Mid Coast Hospital, said the Brunswick hospital is prepared for anyone infected with the coronavirus.

Kelsh stressed that people should stay home if they are sick, wash their hands frequently and cover their mouth when they cough and sneeze. It’s the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. The public should also keep cleaning supplies at home and at the workspace and vehicle to sanitize frequently used surfaces and hands, and stock up on food and supplies so individuals can stay home if they become sick.

The hospital is asking those who are experiencing symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath to call their primary care provider before coming to the practice, walk-in clinic or emergency department.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.