Creighton sophomore Mackenzie Carlson has returned to campus after the coronavirus outbreak in China cut her study abroad program short.
The Heider College of Business student had been at the Beijing Center at the University of International Business and Economics for about three weeks when the program was officially cancelled on Jan. 29.
She was on a two week excursion to the Yunnan province for the Lunar New Year when the province announced that its cities were going under lockdown. This led to a rushed return to Beijing, Carlson said.
Once back at the university, Carlson said students were put on a self-quarantine. The Beijing Center provided them with food, water and masks for the week.
“They recommended that we stay in the building, stay in our rooms as much as possible and wear masks everywhere other than our personal rooms,” Carlson said.
She said that the virus is delaying people’s travels back after celebrating the Lunar New Year. The virus also has affected public transportation and has led to the closing of landmarks like the Forbidden City and parts of the Great Wall of China.
“Because most of the population had returned home for the New Year, the streets were eerily quiet,” Carlson said. “There were few stores open and everyone you saw was wearing a mask. Although it was not busy, the city was not empty, and major companies and convenient stores remained open.”
Within 20 hours after the program was cancelled, Carlson was on a plane back to the U.S. She returned to campus and enrolled in classes.
“China is taking great precautions to both monitor and control the situation,” Carlson said. “I was never scared or felt unsafe. I am beyond excited to go back one day.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, which is located in the Hubei province. As of Feb. 3, the CDC has identified 11 positive cases of coronavirus in the U.S.
The CDC has issued updated travel guidance for China, recommending that all nonessential travel to China be suspended.
The U.S. has suspended entry of foreign nationals who have been in China in the last 14 days and is monitoring all citizens, residents and family members who are returning from the Hubei province and other parts of mainland China, according to the CDC. All face a possible quarantine of up to 14 days.
“Due to these strict quarantine procedures, there is no cause for concern at Creighton or in the U.S. more broadly at this time,” associate professor in the biology department Carol Fassbinder-Orth said.
Fassbinder-Orth, who specializes in virology and disease ecology, recommended that students get updated information about the virus from the CDC or WHO.
“It is also essential that, moving forward, we do not stigmatize individuals from Wuhan, China or from China more broadly, as severe disease outbreaks can and have started all around the globe, including within the United States,” Fassbinder-Orth said.
A Jan. 31 email from Tanya Winegard, vice provost for student life, said that Creighton has suspended all University-sponsored travel to China.
Dr. Marvin Bittner, professor in the School of Medicine, recommends that Creighton students practice good hygiene, disinfect their hands frequently and get their influenza vaccine if they haven’t already.
“[The flu is] a proven risk, in contrast to the uncertain risk of coronavirus in the U.S.,” Bittner said.