Coronavirus Concerns

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The coronavirus has been a prevalent issue, both across DePauw’s campus and in the international media. But public panic over the danger of the virus has left the details of the epidemic obscured.

According to a New York Times article, “the mortality rate for known cases of the Wuhan coronavirus has been running about 2 percent, although that is likely to drop as more tests are done and more mild cases are found.” For comparison, the mortality rate for cases of the seasonal influenza virus– the common flu– usually fall at “about 0.13 percent,” according to Science Alert.

This strain of the coronavirus is much less fatal than SARS or MERS, its counterparts in recent history. The danger, however, comes in its contagious nature.

According to the New York Times, the pattern of contagion of the coronavirus mirrors that of the common flu– which is a point of concern. Since this is a completely new strain of the coronavirus, there is not enough data to properly predict contagion levels and patterns.

Ultimately, the coronavirus should not be a source of panic in the U.S. as a whole. “At the moment, it seems unlikely that the virus will spread widely in countries with vigorous, alert public health systems, said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. ‘Every doctor in the U.S. has this top of mind,’ he said.”

As long as public health officials and individual practitioners alike keep their eyes out, the U.S. is in good shape to prevent a widespread epidemic of the virus.

On DePauw’s campus specifically, students should keep in mind that the coronavirus is not an immediate concern to DePauw’s health. In an email recently sent to DePauw faculty, Dave Berque and Amanda Kim note that “in some Asian countries it is a common practice to wear masks in public spaces, particularly during the winter cold and flu season” as a preventative measure. They also emphasized that just because a student is wearing a face mask, it does not mean that they are sick, and it certainly doesn’t mean they have the coronavirus.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion has offered their ongoing support, and “Amanda Kim and Yoanne Sayili have made themselves available as resources for these students” who have family or other connections in China.

As the DePauw Health site reminds, “…influenza and other viruses are circulating in the central  Indiana community. Please use good hygiene” and the same precautions as any usual flu season, as a DePauw student is more likely to contract influenza than the coronavirus.