Student’s family treats coronavirus, trapped in Wuhan

January 31, 2020

Vee Zhu ’22, whose parents work at a military hospital in Wuhan, China, and have been treating patients infected with the 2019-novel Coronavirus, (2019-nCOv), said that she and other students from China have supported each other since they found out that Wuhan was on lockdown.

“I have friends who also come from China and Wuhan, and we’ve been crying together,” Zhu told The Brandeis Hoot. “We’ve been sharing information and encouraging each other. It’s really been a tough time.” 

Zhu said that she knows of about 10 students who have family living in Wuhan. She said that those who were back at Brandeis received news of the city being on lockdown at 3 p.m. on Jan. 23, but, since it was 2 a.m. in China, many of her family and friends were asleep, so they could not speak. Zhu said that she was only in Wuhan during winter break from Jan. 7 through Jan. 9.

Zhu’s parents work at General Hospital of the Central Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (中部战区总医院) in Wuhan, China. They told her that they would not be treating coronavirus, but after she noticed that they were not responding to her messages during the Lunar New Year, she looked online and read that General Hospital of the Central Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army is being used specifically to treat the coronavirus. She said that people with other serious illnesses have been transferred out of the hospital to treat all of the people who are coming in who are infected with the virus. She said that before the virus broke out, there were roughly 300 beds in the hospital, but 500 additional beds have now been added. 

As of Thursday night, the number of deaths in China had reached 213, and there are confirmed infections near ten thousand, according to The New York Times. The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that the new coronavirus outbreak was a global health emergency. The outbreak began in Wuhan at a market selling live poultry, seafood and wild animals. The viruses can cause illnesses of the respiratory tract, ranging from the common cold to dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which broke out in 2003, according to The New York Times.

Zhu said that she thinks that the reason that everyone is so worried is because it is so contagious, and, because so many people were leaving Wuhan, there is concern that it will spread even more.

Many Chinese newspapers are telling people to wear face masks at all times, according to Zhu. She said that she feels like the international students from China are in a “bubble,” reading and worrying about the spread of the virus everyday while other students don’t seem concerned. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that healthcare workers wear masks and treat it like an airborne pathogen, since it is unknown how the disease is spread.

“While you may see headlines about coronavirus in the news, it is important to note that there are currently no identified cases of infection in Massachusetts,” an email from the Brandeis Health Center on Jan. 23 read. “Additionally, it is the cold and flu season, when other viruses are common and may have similar symptoms.” 

On Thursday, the Health Center sent out an email to the Brandeis community notifying them that the WHO had declared a global health emergency.

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