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Spring trip opens man's eyes to SARS

August 11, 2003|by JENNIFER SMITS

jennifers@herald-mail.com

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - Hedgesville High School graduate Zach Hines never could have guessed that a disease that frightened the world would break out in the place he was spending a semester abroad or that he would return to the United States to become a partner in a new business.

The West Virginia University junior spent last spring in Hong Kong, studying at Lingnan University, which has an exchange program with WVU.

Hines said he adjusted to the new culture quickly, but his study abroad experience became a bit frightening when the SARS outbreak swept through mainland China and Hong Kong.

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Hines said he thinks many people were afraid of SARS because there was little information about the disease.

"That's kind of scary," he said. "You don't know where it's coming from or how you get it."

Hines recalls that everyone was required to wear masks on public transportation at the height of the epidemic, and many people wore masks all the time. It became considered impolite not to wear a mask in some places, even where they were not required, he said.

Although Hines said he felt the masks were unnecessary, he frequently wore one.

"You just put one on to be polite," he said.

As SARS spread through Hong Kong, Hines said the government decided to close primary and secondary schools and universities soon followed suit.

Lingnan University initially closed for a week, but the closure was extended another week, he said. The school made all of its students leave campus, except for international students, who were permitted to stay.

"We simply didn't have anywhere else to go," Hines said.

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