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Coronavirus Outbreak: What You Need to Know

Courtesy of NBC New York

By Angela Hickey

Outbreaks of the coronavirus first surfaced in Wuhan City, China in late December of 2019. Nearly ravaging the city, this virus is spreading rather quickly among residents and has just begun its spread across national borders. As reports of potential outbreaks spread around the D.C. area, Catholic University students and University Communications have expressed concern of the possibility of the epidemic reaching campus.

University Communications sent an email on Wednesday, January 29, stating the university’s current stance on the growing epidemic. The university, after considering the campus population and factors of the infection, have not identified any risk to Catholic University students. The University’s Emergency Management Team, consisting of Student Health Services, the Department of Public Safety, and Environmental Health and Safety, will be monitoring news regarding the virus. The email provided a link for more information on the coronavirus and provided measures to prevent the virus from spreading. 

First identified in Wuhan City, located in the Hubei Province of China, the coronavirus (scientific name “2019-nCoV”) is officially classified as a respiratory illness. The virus has been spreading rapidly after first being identified in numerous patients beginning on Tuesday December 31st, 2019. Patient Zero, the original source of coronavirus spread, has yet to be identified.

Although the virus has yet to arrive in D.C., cases have been identified in Washington, Massachusetts, Arizona, Illinois, and California. There have been a few false reports but no official cases of the coronavirus in D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar recently held a press conference to address the “very fast moving, and constantly changing situation,” also stating, “Current assessments are based on an uncertain denominator,” making predictions about the virus difficult.

According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), the virus is reportedly passed from person-to-person through cough, sneeze, or any form of close contact. According to some medical professionals, the most alarming aspect of this virus is its close resemblance to the common cold. 

Mimicking symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, and headache. The CDC reports that symptoms may appear in between two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. The most severe infections are more commonly found in people with heart or lung diseases, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults. 

According to an official map by the Washington Post, the virus has spread from China to countries such as Germany, Taiwan, Malaysia, and the United States. U.S. officials have announced they are denying entry to individuals who had recently been to China.

During the 2017 Mumps outbreak on campus, the virus spread rapidly through the campus community and to neighboring universities, such as Georgetown and American. Students were quickly quarantined in response. With such close living situations among college students, this could very likely cause a similar case with the coronavirus.

When asked about their feelings on the developing situation, students shared their feelings about the possibility of the virus spreading to campus, 

“It’s scary but I don’t think it’s something to worry about at the moment,” said freshman Kelly Crines.

“There was the mumps outbreak a few years ago and they threw everybody into the center suites in Opus and an empty suite in [Centennial Village], so they might do something similar,” said senior Maya Escobar. “Honestly, I think people are overreacting, considering statistics the only people really affected are infants and the elderly, so people shouldn’t worry too much. Also, I don’t think it’ll be too detrimental considering the symptoms are very similar to a regular flu.”

At the moment, there are no current vaccines to prevent or cure coronavirus, but there are ways to reduce risk of infection including: washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that you frequently touch, and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue. 

If you or anyone you know present flu-like symptoms that concern you, report to the campus health center immediately and express your concerns.

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