The regular rounds of common colds, strep and influenza make their way through UNC’s student body every winter. But this year, another illness has caught the attention of the world and the University administration: coronavirus.
Originally found in visitors to the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, coronavirus has been confirmed in over 10,000 cases, including over 300 deaths caused by the virus. 177 cases have been confirmed in other nations including France, Germany, Australia and the United States.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency.
The University has already responded to the outbreak.
On Wednesday, UNC halted nonessential University-affiliated travel to China, in accordance with advisories from the U.S. Department of State.
“The University has a Communicable Diseases Working Group that is prepared to respond to prevent the spread of any infectious disease,” Cathy Brennan, interim executive director of environment, health and safety, said in an email. “That group, along with the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs, is closely monitoring updates on the situation from the Centers for Disease Control and is using their guidance and recommendations to inform our own campus response.”
Dalton Sawyer, the director of environmental health and safety at UNC Hospitals, said in an email to the DTH that UNC Hospitals is constantly preparing for emergencies like the coronavirus outbreak.
“UNC Hospitals has a standing Emergency Management Committee that addresses a wide variety of hazards, to include infectious disease outbreaks,” Sawyer said. “We leverage decades of expertise from nationally and internationally respected experts in medicine, supply chain, disaster response, infection control and emergency medical care.”
Although institutions around the world and the University have already made efforts in preparation for the coronavirus, some students aren’t worried.
Mireille Leone, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said she has been following the outbreak, but isn’t as nervous about it as other major illnesses, like ebola.
“I would say that it’s less because I’m not in an area where there have been a lot of outbreaks,” she said. “I think if more cases occur in Chapel Hill, I’ll be more worried.”
Leone says that while she isn’t personally feeling the effects, she is concerned for others.
“I’m not scared,” Leone said. “But I’m definitely concerned for people traveling to and from China.”
Symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. The UNC Department of Environment, Health and Safety suggested in a statement that students who have returned from China in the past 14 days with these symptoms directly report to a doctor or UNC Campus Health.
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