PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The University of Pittsburgh held an information session to address myths about the coronavirus outbreak.
On Wednesday, a panel of five experts discussed the disease’s biological origins, Chinese history and prevention efforts.
The event followed the announcement Wednesday afternoon that the university’s Center for Vaccine Research will obtain samples of the coronavirus to develop a vaccine.
Students filled the classroom in David Lawrence Hall hoping to gather more information about the virus.
“It’s kind of something I’d say people need to know about so they don’t get sick or don’t spread it further,” said Pitt student Mason Wagner.
Lauren Yu is a junior at Pitt and says she’s noticed misconceptions about coronavirus causing issues on her campus.
“Xenophobia or Sinophobia, especially towards international students on our campus,” she said. “Just getting more information almost to fight back and be like, ‘No, here are the real facts. This is why what you’re saying is wrong.’”
The panel admitted there are many unanswered questions about the virus.
Dr. Kristen Mertz of the Allegheny County Health Department highlighted more aggressive measures currently in place to prevent spreading the disease as researchers continue to find out more.
“Those are really the travel ban for foreign nationals so they are not coming to the U.S. and restrictions on U.S. citizens and residents who have been overseas,” Mertz said.
However, the panel emphasized that people in Western Pennsylvania should be more concerned about the flu.
“The likelihood of you catching influenza this season is far greater than coming into contact with the coronavirus,” said Megan Culler Freeman of the university’s school of medicine. “So I encourage everyone to wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick and to get your flu shot.”
As of Wednesday evening, there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania.
But as of Feb. 8, there have been 8,750 cases of the flu in Allegheny County.