Communicable Illness Management

In tight-knit communities, public health connects us all. A campus of our size and complexity regularly experiences public health challenges requiring well-organized prevention and response strategies. 

Outbreaks of infectious diseases and communicable illnesses — such as influenza, COVID-19, monkeypox, measles, mumps, norovirus, and sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs), and even outbreaks that occur elsewhere, like SARS, Ebola, and Zika virus — require campus-wide management strategies to prevent and control contagion and protect the health of our community.

Cornell Health collaborates closely with other university departments and local and state organizations on these efforts, including:

Current topics:

Prevention strategies

Cornell Health employs the following strategies to prevent and reduce the risk of communicable illness in our community.

  • Immunizations, including those required for new students, recommended for travel, and protective during annual flu season
  • Screening and early intervention for illnesses such as TB, hepatitis B, and sexually transmitted infections
  • Population monitoring for disease/symptom clusters
  • Monitoring of public health issues outside of Ithaca, and their actual or potential impact on our community
  • Educational campaigns related to prevention and self-care
  • Protocols and safety drills for health services staff, and tabletop exercises with campus and local health care partners
  • Communication strategies and media outreach to provide information during times of crisis or worry

Response strategies: FAQ

Cornell Health collaborates with university and local organizations to respond to communicable disease cases and outbreaks on our campus. 

What happens when a student is identified as having a communicable disease? 

Cornell Health, in collaboration with Cornell’s Department of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) and other university partners, works closely with Tompkins County Whole Health (TCWH) to swiftly respond to identified cases of communicable illness among our student population. 

Cornell Health provides medical care and consultation for students who are ill or concerned about symptoms or exposure. When appropriate, Cornell Health works with Cayuga Medical Center and TCWH to support students. 

TCWH typically conducts contact tracing, with support from Cornell Health when needed. Those who may have been exposed may be advised or required to quarantine or test for illness, following health department guidance. 

How do quarantine or isolation work at Cornell?

State and local public health officials determine which illnesses/infections require an individual to maintain distance from other community members for a period of time. When recommended by Tompkins County Whole Health or the New York State Department of Health, and following guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), students may be advised or required to quarantine (until illness is confirmed or denied), self-isolate, or move to isolation housing with support from the university if needed.

Cornell has a limited number of isolation spaces reserved for on-campus students who are not able to safely isolate in their residence. Students who are in quarantine or isolation in university housing may be provided with meals, either delivered or available for masked pick-up, as appropriate. Other students may receive recommendations for meal delivery services. 

Student Disability Services (SDS) helps support students who need academic or other accommodations related to their illness or their quarantine/isolation period.  

More information

Cornell Health has a long-standing commitment to supporting the public health and emergency preparedness of the Cornell community. For more information, please contact us.