EDITOR'S NOTE: The results of the suspected case of coronavirus were reported as negative. This article reflects information received before the announcement.
In mid-January, a patient was placed into isolation after developing a suspected case of coronavirus after returning from China, according to Dr. Eric Wilke of the Brazos County Health Authority.
There has been worry and speculation from students and faculty around Texas A&M’s campus as to whether or not they should take precautions to prevent the disease from spreading. The news has sparked a variety of reactions from A&M students. Some students have been seen around campus wearing medical masks, while others use the situation as the basis for a comical tweet. Either way, local healthcare professionals said there is little to no reason to worry about contracting the disease.
Not much information has been released about the patient who is being tested, but Wilke said the patient’s condition is not serious at the moment.
“This person had mild upper respiratory symptoms,” Wilke said. “Cough, congestion, that type of thing. Fortunately, it was mild, and he was improving by the time he sought evaluation.”
Wilke said the current plan is to monitor the patient and treat the symptoms. After some initial tests, Wilke said the patient’s condition is steadily getting better.
“The treatment for this particular illness is supportive care,” Wilke said. “There is not an antiviral treatment for this, so it’s just symptom control and supportive therapy. Fortunately for this person, the symptoms are resolving and improving.”
Dr. Julian Leibowitzi, professor of microbial pathogenesis and immunology, has been studying the nature of the coronavirus since 1977. Leibowitz said it is too early to make any rash assumptions about the disease, and the people of Brazos County should stay calm about the situation until the CDC comes back with the patient’s test results.
“It’s far too premature,” Leibowitz said. “CDC will have a result, whether in terms of the test or whether it’s the novel coronavirus or not, this weekend. So any decisions along those lines is far, far too premature.”
Leibowitz said the coverage of the disease since this news came out has been fairly accurate in addressing the current situation.
“The announcements from the health department and what I’ve read in the newspapers, they’ve all been very appropriate,” Leibowitz said. “I think they’ve handled it quite well, actually.”
While different news sources have addressed the situation correctly, according to Leibowitz, reactions from students around campus have varied. He said students who have started wearing surgical masks around campus may be overreacting, considering the presence of the disease hasn’t been officially confirmed.
“I see students starting to wear masks and that stuff right now,” Leibowitz said. “That is a bit over the top. I might change my mind about that in a week or two, but for right now, no. They’re busy investigating all the known contacts with the student, so those people should know who they are.”
Leibowitz said he thinks the assumptions about the student’s illness have been blown out of proportion, as it could possibly just be a bad case of the flu.
“I would not worry too much if I was a student,” Leibowitz said. “Chances are that given the prevalence of the flu this time of year and from what I have read from the newspapers, the student has an upper respiratory infection that is more likely to be flu.”