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Chinese Purdue students, faculty feeling impact of coronavirus

Purdue University scientists are developing a drug to fight coronavirus. The drug works by blocking a key enzyme of the virus, preventing it from replicating. (Photo {Provided/Purdue University/Andrew Mesecar)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — The coronavirus death toll is continuing to rise in China, and many Chinese students and faculty at Purdue University are feeling the effects. Nearly 135 students call Wuhan, China, home.

As the coronavirus continues spreading beyond the borders of Wuhan, students and faculty like Qian Song can’t help but worry.

“Those doctors and nurses, they are really fighting for their lives to save those patients,” said Song.

Students are banding together to help their loved ones back home. According to Song, the local Chinese market recently sold out of medical face masks because of so many students buying and shipping them to China.

“Because there are patients there, like, they are really in shortage of the masks and other medical equipment,” said Song.

Song is from Hefei, China, about a three-hour train ride from Wuhan. Instead of going home for the university’s winter break, her parents came here. Unfortunately, they’re returning home soon where 16 people have tested positive for the virus.

“Somewhat worried to some degree but, you know, everybody needs to work. The society can not just stop running because of the coronavirus,” said Song.

As Chinese students on campus watch what’s happening overseas, they find comfort in knowing it’s not spreading nearly as fast here.

“It’s still so much less, and so I don’t think they are really worried about their own safety, but I would say they are worried about their families in China,” said Song.

“The risk here in West Lafayette, Lafayette is minimal, if not almost nil,” said Dean of International Student Programs, Mike Brzezinski. “We are very well on top of it, and we’re very careful to monitor and follow the guidelines from the CDC.”

With more than 3,000 Chinese students, many of which may have traveled home for the holiday break, the university’s Public Health Emergency Planning Committee is actively monitoring the virus’s status.

“The common flu is much more of an issue for us right here, right now,” said Brzezinski. 

Purdue has zero reported coronavirus cases at this time, but health leaders have an emergency plan in place. 

Students and faculty who use the university’s student health services will be asked if they’ve traveled through China within the past 14 days. If they show signs of the coronavirus infection, they’ll be placed in isolation for further evaluation. From there, they could be taken to a hospital for further care.

Dean Brzezinski said there are a handful of students studying abroad in Hong Kong. He said the university is taking measures to monitor their safety against the virus there as well.

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