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Coronavirus: What You Need To Know

COVID-19, the new strain of coronavirus spreading rapidly across the world, has had serious implications for many students studying abroad. As of February 28th, the Georgia Institute of Technology has canceled all its spring and summer programs in China and its spring program in South Korea.

Additionally, students who have recently visited Italy, including several the Georgia Tech – Lorraine (GTL) campus, have been required to self-quarantine for two weeks. Despite these efforts, 285 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in France as of March 4, and many study abroad programs based in Europe may be threatened, although nothing has been confirmed at the time of writing.

“I don’t know if I’ll still be able to go to GTL this summer,” says Mary Bergin, a third year mechanical engineer. “I was going to be able to take some classes I need for my major, and if it gets canceled, I might have to push back my graduation date.”

Now, with the arrival of COVID-19 in metro Atlanta, many Georgia Tech students have serious questions about the virus, its risks and what it means for their education. At the time of writing this, there are only 2 confirmed cases in the state, but the long incubation period means that several more may surface in the coming weeks. Whether you’re staying in Atlanta or planning on traveling abroad, there are a few things you need to know about COVID-19.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus originating in China. It mainly affects the respiratory system, and in terms of symptoms is most similar to the common cold or the flu. Although in most cases it’s not severe, it is highly contagious and can easily be spread to vulnerable individuals.

What countries currently have confirmed cases of COVID-19?

The countries of most concern are China (at least 80,565 confirmed cases), the Republic of Korea (5,766 confirmed cases), Italy (3,089 confirmed cases) and Iran (2,922 confirmed cases). Other countries with over 100 confirmed cases at the time of writing include Japan, France, Germany, Spain, the United States and Singapore. For a complete list of countries with confirmed cases, consult the CDC website:


How afraid should I be?

Be cautious, but remain calm. If you are generally in good health, COVID-19 is not likely to be dangerous to you. However, because it is so contagious, you should consider not only your own health but that of those around you.

If you are immunocompromised or vulnerable to respiratory infections because of conditions like asthma, you should exercise extra caution; contact your physician and ask what precautions you should take. If your doctor feels that you should avoid being around large groups of people, consider speaking with the Office of Disability Services to review what options are available to you.

How can I prevent or treat COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine available for COVID-19. This means that preventing the spread of the virus comes down to good hygiene and health practices.

Eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure you get enough sleep, and if you don’t already have an exercise routine, consider fitting a few brisk walks or jogs into your week.

Keep your apartment or dorm clean, and disinfect your phone regularly. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water, and use hand sanitizer with more than 60% alcohol. Cough into your arm, not your hand or the air. Avoid touching your face (it’s better for preventing acne, too!). If you are sick, please, for the love of everything good in the world, stay home.

If you think that you may have contracted COVID-19, call a medical professional as soon as possible. Test kits are limited, but you may be able to access one. Follow medical advice
faithfully. You may be instructed to self-quarantine; at any rate, you should stay away from public places. Treat your symptoms as directed, being sure to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.

Will I still be able to study abroad?

There’s no easy answer to that. In the coming weeks, Georgia Tech administrators and other school administrators around the country will likely have to make some difficult decisions regarding study abroad programs. For now, don’t assume that your program will be canceled, but consider what your backup plans might be.




Hi, I'm Emma! I'm a Georgia native majoring in Literature, Media and Communications with a minor in French. I love writing and cooking, and I'm also passionate about my church and the Panhellenic community. Whenever I can, I love to get outdoors - hiking, running, and yoga are some of my favorite hobbies. After graduation, I hope to be a teacher and writer. In the meantime, you can find me on Instagram as @snaesthetic.
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