In late 2019, a mysterious virus broke out in China, causing strange pneumonia cases. According to researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it is believed the virus came from a market in town where live animals such as snakes, bats and birds were traded. The market was shut down on Jan. 1 and later that month the disease had already made it to America. Five states currently have at least one confirmed case of the virus, including Washington.
At the time this article was started, there were no concerns regarding study abroad. There are a lot of countries affected by this virus, but none of them affected any planned trips. It seemed that even the 2020 summer trip, titled “China: Past and Present,” had not been canceled.
Courtney Kroll, study abroad manager, said they were making sure that study abroad locations are safe for students by working closely with the UW Global Travel Security Manager. Currently, there is a travel advisory for all of China placed by the US Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control.
“If the virus is not contained in the next few months, and the university determines that the program needs to be canceled, participants will be refunded the study abroad program fee,” Kroll said in regard to the current travel advisory.
However, as of Feb. 4, the UW Provost and Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs Mark Richards sent out an email notifying all students, staff and faculty that effective immediately and until further notice UW resources may not be used to travel to China unless provided with a waiver. This means all sponsored research, study abroad trips and UW-affiliated internships have been halted. Those wishing to travel to China in a non-UW capacity, such as for personal travel, are still welcomed to do so.
“UW policies on travel to China are subject to change as new advisories and policies are announced at the federal level,” said Jeff Cohen, executive director of the Office of Global Affairs.
The first case of the virus in Washington came from a man from Snohomish county who took himself to a clinic knowing about the virus and was concerned about some of his symptoms. He was diagnosed with the first case of the virus in the US.
There have now been four cases of UW Seattle students who had come from the Wuhan area in China and developed some form of respiratory infection. As of now, the four have been tested and three have been confirmed to be negative, with the final student waiting in isolation for their result. Still, more Washington State residents are being tested and living in isolation in fear of carrying the virus.
This virus is transmitted the same way as many viruses. The best precautions to take are to avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose, and to wash your hands thoroughly. This virus does not need symptoms to be transmitted. Someone exposed and carrying the disease could spread it while being healthy, so remember to use proper hygiene techniques.