Photo C/O Matteo Fusco
By Hargun Kaur, Contributor and Shamir Malik, News Reporter
On Mar. 2, McMaster University released a statement that a potential case of COVID-19 virus surfaced on Feb. 29 tested negative.
What is COVID-19?
The COVID-19 virus, also known as the novel coronavirus (nCov), has affected over 92,000 individuals and led to over 3200 deaths globally. COVID-19 is a coronavirus, a family of viruses responsible for a variety of illnesses ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, a viral respiratory disease that resulted in 774 deaths between 2002 and 2003.
As of Mar. 3, there have been 33 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada, most of them in Ontario. While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at McMaster University, there have been two scares of infection on campus.
COVID-19 Scares at McMaster
On Jan. 27, a fake notice was posted on a residence room door warning students that room had been quarantined due to a suspected case of COVID-19. McMaster issued a statement the same day confirming that the sign was false.
On Feb. 13, an opinion article in the Silhouette discussing coronavirus and racism in the McMaster community referred to the false quarantine notice. The article called the incident “deeply insensitive,” further stating, “[It’s] very insensitive for people to downplay or make fun of our distress. Many of our families still carry the trauma of SARS, which should not be taken lightly. Many of us worry about friends or family in China, and COVID-19, being ten times deadlier than the flu, makes us especially concerned for our grandparents.”
On Feb. 29, a potential case of COVID-19 surfaced at McMaster after one student reported flu-like symptoms to the school several days after returning from Italy. According to a statement released by McMaster on Feb. 29, the student was on campus on Feb. 25 and had visited the Burke Science Building, prompting additional cleaning of the building.
“While health officials have said that regular cleaning should suffice, as a precaution, McMaster is undertaking extra cleaning on level one and all public spaces,” the statement reads.
According to a CBC article on Mar. 1, the potential COVID-19 case on campus incited fear and apprehension amongst McMaster students as the university awaited confirmation of the virus.
On Mar. 2, McMaster released another statement that disclosed that the student involved in the potential COVID-19 case tested negative.
Interview with an Expert
According to Dr. Matthew Miller, associate professor in McMaster’s department of biochemistry and biomedical sciences and a member of the Institute for Infectious Diseases Research, the risk of COVID-19 infection to students in the McMaster community is low.
Miller states that older individuals and those with underlying medical conditions have the greatest risk of contracting the infection. Moreover, he adds that COVID-19 is less dangerous than the flu. According to Miller, despite the mortality of the coronavirus being 2 to 3 per cent, this number is disproportionately driven up by older individuals.
“The mortality rates for people under 50 is 0.1 per cent, which is very similar to seasonal flu. For children between the ages of newborn to 9 years old, there have been no fatalities at all,” Miller explains.
To further reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, Miller advises students to continue practices such as regular hand washing and proper sneezing and coughing, just as they would for the common cold or the flu.