Expert gives advice to overseas students

Ke Jiayun
Huashan Hospital expert tells students sharing accommodation in Europe with an infected person need not worry too much if they take certain precautions. 
Ke Jiayun

Chinese students living overseas who share accommodation with someone with coronavirus symptoms should not worry too much if they use the kitchen at different times, have separate tableware and dry their clothes soon after washing, according to medical expert Zhang Wenhong during a live exchange with Chinese in Europe.

On Wednesday, the Mission of the People's Republic of China to the European Union, Chinese embassies in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office organized an online discussion for Chinese in Europe on how to protect themselves during the ongoing pandemic.

Zhang, an infectious diseases expert at Huashan Hospital who also heads a Shanghai medical team fighting the coronavirus, was invited by the Shanghai Health Commission to give advice and answer questions.

Zhang said the pandemic in Europe would not end soon and people should be prepared for a long struggle. But with more people practicing social distancing, the peak of coronavirus patients will arrive and numbers will go down.

Ren Qizhi, a student at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said a Dutch student had been confirmed with mild coronavirus disease and was asked to isolate himself in the dormitory. Other students on the same floor were worried.

Since many students sharing with the others had separate bedrooms but shared kitchens and restrooms, Ren asked Zhang for advice.

"The coronavirus is mainly spread via air-borne droplets,” Zhang said. “If a person can have separate tableware and doesn't use the kitchen with the patient at the same time, he or she won't be infected just by sharing the kitchen," said Zhang. "Never gather together. Gathering will trigger a high risk of infection."

Zhang said cooked food wasn’t infectious. "If you share the washing machine with the patient, your clothes will be safe after they are dry."

Gu Yuwen, a student at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, worried that if asymptomatic patients had an antibody, would the virus still do them harm. She also sought advice on how to prepare for a possible long-term battle with the virus.

Zhang said that in those with strong immunity, the virus is controlled and the focus of infection in their lung is not very obvious. But that didn’t mean they could not spread the disease to others.

He suggested students practice social distancing, take more exercise, have enough sleep and nutrition. If infected, they should try to prevent the disease from becoming critical through these methods.

"More than 95 percent of young people can defeat coronavirus through the ways I mentioned. The death rate of infected people under 50 is only 0.5 percent in China," said Zhang.

"What's the color of coronavirus?" was a question from a child.

"The coronavirus is a cluster of genes wrapped by proteins," Zhang said. "It could only be seen clearly with an electron microscope in black and white."

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