Rumors of OC’s Coronavirus Infection Shock Irvine — Here are the Facts

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with an additional comment from the University of California, Irvine.

The Orange County Health Care Agency has confirmed one case of the coronavirus, which has so far killed over 80 people and infected thousands of others, in Orange County, California.

The coronavirus, a potentially lethal respiratory infection, is believed to have originated from a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

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Since the first case was reported in Wuhan, the death toll has climbed to more than 80 people and the virus has made its way into the United States, where 110 people are currently being evaluated, according to the New York Times.

There has been one reported case of the virus in Washington, Arizona, and Chicago, according to the LA Times. California health officials have confirmed two other cases of coronavirus in Los Angeles and Orange County, both brought on by travelers who came from Wuhan. 

On Saturday, the Orange County Health Care Agency confirmed a case of coronavirus in the area:

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The agency stated that the traveler from Wuhan has been “transported to a local hospital and is in isolation and in good condition.”

However, the internet has been in a frenzy since Saturday over rumors about the real number of infected people in Orange County and where they may have visited given that infected individuals can be contagious before symptoms begin to show.

Some tweets allege that one person with coronavirus has been to public areas around Irvine, including community college Irvine Valley College, popular food plaza Diamond Jamboree, and the South Coast Plaza shopping center, details that remain unverified. Others allege that the patient was hospitalized in the city of Irvine.

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After information spread that the coronavirus may be in Irvine, residents created a petition to shut down the University of California, Irvine campus, a university well-known for having a large population of Chinese students, to “stop the Wuhan Coronavirus!”

The creator of the petition wrote that Irvine students are “experiencing tremendous fear and concern over going to crowded places such as lecture halls, and campuses. We wanted to take precaution measures, but all masks are currently sold out in the Irvine area.”

More than 6,000 students have signed the petition as of this writing.

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However, a representative at UCI told NextShark,  I am not aware of coronavirus at the UCI campus.”

In an updated comment provided on Monday evening, Sheri Ledbetter, a Communications Officer at UCI, told NextShark that UCI is currently aware of the petition to shut down the campus.

“We are monitoring social media as it relates to Coronavirus and UCI students, and the petition was posted via social media. We are also using social media to communicate with our students information on Coronavirus as we learn new developments,” Ledbetter said.

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Ledbetter also suggests that students protect themselves by doing the following:

“We are following the guidance of the CDC and advising our campus community to be vigilant in the following ways:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school
  • Practice healthy habits: get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food
  • If you have not received your annual flu shot, please visit your medical provider and schedule a Flu Shot visit”

Ledbetter also noted that communications have been sent to the campus about coronavirus via the Student Health Center.

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One Facebook user, Kaila Karns, listed some of the places she believes that the one coronavirus patient visited, including the Irvine Kaiser Hospital.

NextShark reached out to Kaila, who said that she heard the news from her friend who “saw it on the news in Taiwan.” 

After she shared the post on Facebook, some people contacted her saying “they were also told by family overseas that there was news reporting on it in Irvine.”

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However, a spokesperson at the Kaiser Permanente Orange County – Irvine Medical Center told NextShark, “It is to our understanding that we have no patients with coronavirus at this time. There is some inaccurate information flowing out there.”

Another representative from the hospital confirmed that “we don’t have a patient or anything there in Irvine.”

A second petition to declare a public health emergency in Orange County was also started and has gained over 600 signatures as of this writing.

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While the exact status of the virus in Irvine is unclear, all we can do now is to protect ourselves.

The representative went on to provide tips on protecting yourself against the virus, including washing your hands often, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and more.

The full list of tips can be found on the Kaiser Permanente website.

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Feature Image via Getty

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