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Behaviour of Staff and Students Towards Pandemic

News broke out in December, 2019, that a deadly virus had started infecting people with a pneumonia-like disease in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei Province of China (Wu et al. 2020). The virus belonged to the family of previously discovered coronaviruses, but this was new and one of its kind. Scientists and the medical fraternity termed it the “novel coronavirus 19” or “nCoV-19”; 19 because the virus was discovered when people in China started dying of it. Later, in January, 2020, the virus was given its medical name and came to be known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Folegatti et al. 2020). Only in a short number of days, there was news again that the virus, which is capable of human to human transmission or communicable, had spread through entire China, and yet later, in only a matter of a month or so, the entire world was engulfed by nCoV-19, spreading from person to person a deadly disease called CoViD-19 (AlJazeera 2020).

According to Osterholm (2005), pandemics go on to become devastating because people have not been vaccinated in advance; even if they are vaccinated in advance, there are multiple unpredictable factors at play which spread the disease amongst the population; sometimes, the disease causing agent like a virus, is of a completely new type and nature, not known about before it starts spreading and has not been prepared for in advance; and sometimes, lack of political will to curb a situation like this lets the disease spread like wildfire. SARS-CoV-2 spread throughout the whole world because it was a new or novel type of a virus with no vaccine having been prepared in advance to curb it and because the world today is highly globalized with millions of people travelling internationally (Hitayezu and Kaur 2020). Only in a matter of 70 days, in March, 2020, CoViD-19 was declared a pandemic and a global health emergency.

Seale et al. (2012) have observed that it is a common belief among people during the time of a pandemic like influenza, that students would not fall ill because their bodies are naturally healthy and full of immunity given their young age. Nothing could be further away from the truth. Van et al. (2010) have highlighted that young adults like college students are more at a risk of being infected. Universities are places with a lot of interactions going on and so it becomes really important that students are made aware of any such disease and the risks of getting infected. Akan et al. (2010), surveyed hundreds of students to gauge their awareness of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic and found that most of the students were well aware through mass media of its spread, the causes and the precautions they must take to avoid getting infected. However, they also found that there were still many youngsters who were confused and unaware of the precautions they must take.

Ross (2020) points out that while some countries which have successfully been able to control the effects of CoViD-19 to a great extent, like New Zealand, Australia and Canada, will continue enrolling more students from foreign countries into their university programs, others like the US and the UK may not be able to do so because of their incapacity to handle and curb the effects of the pandemic. Yonge et al. (2010) during the time of the influenza pandemic in 2010 had suggested that students enrolled in nursing programs throughout the world could serve as a majorly demanded human resource in times of such an event. Spreading awareness about the pandemic, its causes and the different precautions everyone, including international students must take, is a job that can be handled very well by nursing students. They can also volunteer in nursing and administering to those who have symptoms or are affected by the disease, of course, taking all due precautions themselves. As groups of youngsters delivering humanitarian help, such actions will increase their compassion towards people who need them while also giving them adequate knowledge of how to deal with such situations and make them highly efficient in their profession.

When SARS broke out in 2003, the travel of international students throughout the world was suspended (Curtis 2003). Teaching at universities continued as normal, however, travelling for everyone related to the universities was restricted. Universities in the UK were taking up awareness programs, they were asking the staff and students to remain vigilant and were monitoring the situation at every step. When MERS-CoV broke out in 2012, questionnaires were distributed to a large number of students to gauge their awareness of the pandemic (Kharma et al. 2015). Health workers were trained and made aware of all the procedures to prevent and protect people from infection. According to Redden (2009), a large number of colleges in the US and other places had restricted students from travelling abroad to study during the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009-2010. Many students who had travelled were quarantined for several days in the foreign countries. Protocols had been issued by the Government of China for further health screenings and quarantining of students and other individuals pouring into the country from abroad.

McGregor (2014) has noted that when Ebola spread in West Africa in 2014, universities around the globe had been monitoring the international students who were arriving at different locations from the location of the outbreak. Some countries had even gone on to cancel the visas of those students and other persons who were wishing to travel from West African region. The universities around the globe which had been destinations for West African students for decades started spreading awareness in their campuses and monitoring their students for their hygiene practices like washing and sanitizing hands. Also, during the time of the Spanish Flu in 1918, much terror was spread around the world (Bowman 2020). This pandemic was so deadly that it sickened three out of every four of the international students and claimed the lives of all three of those students. The colleges had converted their rooms and facilities into gyms and wards to treat the sick patients. This was the deadliest pandemic the world had ever witnessed. CoViD-19 has spread now in the end of 2019 and till now as of August, all of 2020. Global health organizations have pointed out that it is not going to go away any time soon, so, international students along with the entire world populous must keep clean and hygienic, travel less and only for important purposes and spread awareness of the disease. Only in these ways can this deadly virus be fought with and defeated.

References for Effects of Pandemics on International Students

Akan, H., Gurol, Y., Izbirak, G., Ozdatlı, S., Yilmaz, G., Vitrinel, A. and Hayran, O., 2010. Knowledge and attitudes of university students toward pandemic influenza: a cross-sectional study from Turkey. BMC Public health10(1), p.413. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-10-413

AlJazeera 2020. Timeline: How the coronavirus spread. [Online]. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/timeline-china-coronavirus-spread-200126061554884.html [Accessed on August 21, 2020].

Bowman, R. 2020. The Spanish Flu of 1918 at 1918: ‘We did not know what it was, until we were all sick.’. Retrieved from: https://www.elon.edu/u/news/2020/03/24/weve-been-here-before-elon-the-spanish-flu-of-1918/

Curtis, P. 2003. SARS threatens overseas student numbers. [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2003/apr/25/highereducation.uk4 [Accessed on August 21, 2020].

Folegatti, P. M., Ewer, K. J., Aley, P. K., Angus, B., Becker, S., Belij-Rammerstorfer, S., Bellamy, D., Bibi, S., Bittaye, M., Clutterbuck, E. A. and Dold, C. 2020. Safety and immunogenicity of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine against SARS-CoV-2: a preliminary report of a phase 1/2, single-blind, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 396(10249), pp. 467-478. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31604-4

Hitayezu, C. and Kaur, B. 2020. COVID-19: This is why we have a pandemic. [Online]. Available at: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/health/covid-19-this-is-why-we-have-a-pandemic-70041 [Accessed on August 21, 2020].

Kharma, M.Y., Alalwani, M.S., Amer, M.F., Tarakji, B. and Aws, G., 2015. Assessment of the awareness level of dental students toward Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-coronavirus. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry5(3), p.163. DOI: 10.4103/2231-0762.159951

McGregor, K. 2014. Higher education and West Africa’s Ebola outbreak. [Online]. Available at: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20140829160149102 [Accessed on August 23, 2020].

Osterholm, M.T., 2005. Preparing for the next pandemic. New England Journal of Medicine352(18), pp.1839-1842. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp058068

Redden, E. 2009. Swine flu and student flows. [Online]. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/05/12/swine-flu-and-student-flows [Accessed on August 23, 2020].

Ross, J. 2020. Pandemic to redistribute international student flows: report. [Online]. Available at: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/pandemic-redistribute-international-student-flows-report [Accessed on August 21, 2020].

Seale, H., Mak, J.P., Razee, H. and MacIntyre, C.R., 2012. Examining the knowledge, attitudes and practices of domestic and international university students towards seasonal and pandemic influenza. BMC public health12(1), p.307. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-307

Van, D., McLaws, M.L., Crimmins, J., MacIntyre, C.R. and Seale, H., 2010. University life and pandemic influenza: Attitudes and intended behaviour of staff and students towards pandemic (H1N1) 2009. BMC Public Health10(1), p.130. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-10-130

Wu, Y.C., Chen, C.S. and Chan, Y.J., 2020. The outbreak of COVID-19: An overview. Journal of the Chinese Medical Association83(3), p.217. DOI: 10.1097/JCMA.0000000000000270

Yonge, O., Rosychuk, R.J., Bailey, T.M., Lake, R. and Marrie, T.J., 2010. Willingness of university nursing students to volunteer during a pandemic. Public Health Nursing27(2), pp.174-180. DOI: 10.1111/j.1525-1446.2010.00839.x 

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