With the number of cases of COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, surpassing 63,000 globally, the Bowdoin Health Center is carefully monitoring the virus and is in communication with the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as the health centers of other schools in the area. However, concern about the respiratory virus harming Bowdoin students is low.
There has been a confirmed case of coronavirus at UMass Boston, and a student displayed coronavirus-like symptoms at Wesleyan but tested negative.
Several Colby College students who returned from China were incubated for several days upon their return to campus for this January. The health center at Colby did not consult the Maine CDC before isolating the students in an off-campus hotel.
Though the medical community’s knowledge about coronavirus is incomplete, Director of Health Services Jeffrey Maher speculates the virus will not be as dangerous to otherwise healthy individuals as initially anticipated.
“I think that as we learn more, [coronavirus] is going to be less deadly than we initially thought because the sheer number of people who’ve been exposed don’t present as critically ill,” Maher said. “It’s going to be probably more like the influenza virus where large populations of people are affected, a certain number of those people become critically ill, and a tiny bit of those people will die.”
While the Colby College students were incubated a month ago when less was known about coronavirus, Maher said that, considering what is known now, the Bowdoin Health Center would have acted otherwise.
“I would have consulted the CDC right away and used their guidelines,” said Maher. “It’s the right thing to do, to use your state resources.”
Maher recently attended a primary care conference about recurring and emerging illnesses. He said that while he was hoping there would be more information about coronavirus, the conference reiterated a concern about another annual epidemic: the flu.
“This year there were 13 deaths from influenza in the state of Maine and there have been less than 13 cases of coronavirus identified in the United States of America,” said Maher. “That’s still a serious enough problem that needs to be addressed constantly every year, and this year is no different.”
The Health Center has seen 171 cases of influenza or flu-like symptoms in students this academic year. It offered a flu shot clinic two weeks ago and is still offering flu shots to students by appointment.
Editor’s Note, 2/15/20, 9:45 p.m.: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there was a confirmed case of coronavirus at UMass Amherst. There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus at UMass Amherst, but one case has been confirmed at UMass Boston.