Prevention key for students worried about coronavirus

by | Jan 30, 2020 | Campus News, Canadian News, City News, Headlines, News

Nate Marksman, Sports Reporter
Josh Bergant, News Reporter

A new health concern known as novel coronavirus has officially arrived in the Greater Toronto Area.

While not quite at the scope of previous outbreaks such as SARS, coronavirus poses a challenge to health officials in tracking and containing its spread.

A statement released by Humber on Jan. 24 stated the college is “monitoring the situation and potential impact on the institution” and will issue updates as needed.

The college established an oversight group comprising representatives from the Academic Division, Communications, Human Resources, Legal and Risk Management, Public Safety, Student Success and Engagement, and the University of Guelph-Humber.

The statement said Humber has been in contact with Toronto Public Health on the situation but the agency recommended no significant action at this time aside from “to follow regular respiratory illness protocols and prevention.”

Prevention includes washing hands as frequently as possible, coughing or sneezing into sleeves rather than hands, and staying home if feeling ill.

Soap and hand sanitizer dispensers across campus will be monitored and filled regularly, Humber said.

Ron Stewart, a professor of biology at Humber, stressed the need for proper handwashing and sanitizing even while at school.

Professor Ron Stewart said that people who are the most at risk, during outbreaks, such as the 2003 SARS outbreak, are often front line healthcare workers. (Josh Bergant)

“We’ve been discussing the coronavirus itself in class lately,” he said. “A lot of what we know comes from the outbreak of SARS back in 2003.”

There were 438 probable and suspected infections of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that killed 44 people in Canada. Similar to the outbreak of novel coronavirus, SARS was first noted in China’s southern province Guangdong.

The SARS outbreak initiated the development of protocols for public health systems to deal with similar outbreaks.

Stewart also knows the dangers and threats of viruses and what they can do to the human body.

“It’s tragic because there’s a loss of lives,” he said. “Many of those lives were front line health care workers, many of those lives were nurses because they were fighting SARS.”

However, Stewart also believes that unlike SARS, which crept up on Canadians, Canada has a more efficient way of preventing people from becoming ill from coronavirus.

A norovirus struck Humber in 2017 where about 200 people reported becoming sick. Toronto Public Health investigated the outbreak. Norovirus outbreaks commonly occur in daycares and retirement homes.

Gerrard Liam Malcolmson, a nursing student at Humber with a work placement at Brampton Civic Hospital, said the coronavirus could potentially affect students’ schedules.

“If I miss a class that’s huge,” he said. “Each of my classes is on one topic. If I miss that class, I miss an entire week’s worth of critical information.”

Pauline Moy, a Registered Practical Nurse at North York General Hospital, remembered clearly the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009 when she was a student, where people panicked over its spread.

“I was still a student during the outbreak for H1N1 but unfortunately I don’t remember too much during that time aside people panicking over the spread of it,” she said.

Moy remembered that “hand sanitizers and masks sold out in stores.”

She said many people reuse face masks when they shouldn’t.

“Many people wear surgical masks or N95 masks without proper handling of the two. An example can be people reusing surgical masks when they should be one-use only, or wearing them the wrong side,” Moy said, adding the blue or coloured side should face out unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer.

“N95 masks are special masks that must be fitted to you as it captures finer particles than the surgical mask,” she said.