On Jan. 27, the U.S. Department of State updated the Travel Advisory level for China to Level 3: Reconsider Travel due to the spread of the new coronavirus. Since December, coronavirus has spread rapidly, having begun in a seafood and poultry market in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
After spreading to thousands of people in China, the illness has been detected in several other countries, including the U.S. According to Chinese health authorities, at least 106 people have died and 4,500 have been infected—however, researchers at Northeastern University and Imperial College London estimated the number to be higher than reported.
Chinese international students at Northwestern were among the first groups of students on campus who were informed about coronavirus. Weinberg sophmore John Ma said he heard about the spread of illness in Wuhan in early-middle December.
As the crisis elevated, more and more students have become aware of the situation. Weinberg sophomore Adithi Gandhi said that she learned about coronavirus “probably like first, second week of school, when it started coming up more on the news.” “People are starting to get a little fearful that it’s spreading and hard to contain.”
Now that the world faces the possibility of a more widespread outbreak of the illness, members of the medical community in the U.S. have taken note.
Dr. Robert Murphy, an infectious disease expert at Northwestern who is currently on international travel, holds the view that this outbreak of disease could develop into a huge disaster.
“Basically, this is the next SARS, and there is no treatment,” Murphy said in a recent press release. “It isn’t routinely diagnosed, it can be transmitted person to person and it can kill you. Treatment is just supportive. Approximately 1,000 people died from SARS, and it would not surprise me if the same happens here.”
Some international students have also expressed worries about the further transmission of coronavirus due to the Lunar New Year. Xiangheng Chen, a first-year student from Shanghai said that even though national holiday in China has been extended, “there is still going to be a day that the holiday ends, and I am worried that the migration of population after New Year would lead to a more severe outbreak of the disease.”
Weinberg freshman Flora Tian has family members from Wuhan. “I’m definitely concerned for my family and everyone else who is also living in the province, but ... [the Chinese] government is taking action, and also everyone from different organizations are doing whatever they can to prevent this disease from spreading further and to alleviate the consequences so far,” she said.
Northwestern’s Chinese International Student Association is one of these organizations trying to help from overseas. CISA president Gabrielle Tsoi, a Communication and Weinberg junior, said that she helped promote channels of donation by posting the information on their official accounts.
“I know the head of this organization [that is making donations] personally, which allows me to verify that the donated supplies are actually reaching where they are needed,” Tsoi said.
The NU health center is also distributing masks. The number of people visiting the health center for masks has increased significantly, according to a receptionist at the NU health center.
In response to the crisis, the University sent out an email to the student body Jan. 23 about a travel advisory to China and has been updating students and faculty continuously afterwards about the situation.