Worry Circulates YSU, Hoax Coronavirus Alert on Campus 

By Brianna Gleghorn

An outbreak of a respiratory virus named the 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, in China sparked paranoia in the United States. But recently concerning the Youngstown State University community was an illegitimate text message confirming a case at YSU.

A text posing as the YSU Penguin Alert System indicated there was a confirmed case of coronavirus on campus.

The text included a link to an inappropriate photo and advised students to contact the Mercy Health Clinic if they exhibited flu-like symptoms.

Ron Cole, the public information officer at YSU, said the search for the person behind the text is still ongoing.

“We’re trying to trace the origin of that text, but it was not a hack of the Penguin Alert System or anything like that,” Cole said. “We’re very confident that the system is secure.”

Cole said there is no estimation for where the text was sent from or how many students received the message.

Before the text was released, an email was sent on Jan. 28 to the YSU community providing information about the coronavirus. 

The email stated there are no reported cases in Ohio and “the overall risk of acquiring the Novel Coronavirus in the US is low.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus originated in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province of China. 

The New York Times stated in a Jan. 21 report that symptoms of coronavirus include fever, a severe cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, while milder cases may resemble the flu or a cold. Other symptoms include gastrointestinal problems or diarrhea.

According to the CDC, “Chinese health officials have reported thousands of infections with 2019-nCoV in China, with the virus reportedly spreading from person-to-person in many parts of that country.”

The first reported case of person-to-person transfer of this virus in the United States was in Washington on Jan. 21, according to the CDC. It was declared a “public health emergency of international concern” by the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization. 

According to the CDC, “Eleven U.S. cases of 2019-nCoV have been confirmed by the CDC as of Feb. 3. To minimize the risk of spread, health officials and health care providers across the country are working together to promptly identify and evaluate any possible cases.”

Kaitlyn Flynn, a junior chemistry and statistics major at Miami University, said she was nervous when she first heard about the possible cases at her university. 

“My phone was blowing up with calls and texts from concerned family members when the announcements first came out about it,” Flynn said. 

According to Flynn, Miami University’s administration sent out several emails encouraging good hygiene and implying the threat was not serious.

“Most of the students have started making a joke out of it because it became extremely blown out of proportion considering how low the risk is in Oxford,” Flynn said. 

She said students began walking around the university in hazmat suits and a local bar joked about selling masks with their logo. 

The two students being tested had just traveled to China, but test results came back negative for the virus.

A press release from the Ohio Department of Health confirmed “there are no other persons under investigation in Ohio.”

The ODH encourages good personal hygiene practices, including washing hands with soap and water, avoiding contact with eyes, nose and mouth and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. It also encourages those who are sick to stay home and to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. 

YSU students experiencing flu-like symptoms and those who have recently traveled to affected areas should contact Wick Primary Care at YSU at 330-747-4660 and avoid contact with others. 

Wick Primary Care is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday.

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