Typically at the start of October, freshman students like Quencey Hickerson, 18, would be preparing for their first Howard University homecoming. But on Friday, Hickerson and her fellow students were preoccupied with news of a possible case of Ebola virus being treated at the Howard University Hospital, which lies on the southern end of the Washington, D.C. school’s campus.
Hickerson, who heard the news via social media, told TIME she was “shocked” by the news. “I didn’t expect [the virus] to spread so quickly,” Hickerson said.
Though the patient might not actually have Ebola and hospital officials say they have taken the necessary steps to isolate the patient, the virus’ potential spread was on the minds of many students at the historically black college.
“Campus is freaking out and this isn’t even confirmed,” said Blake Newby, 19, who also found out via social media. The sophomore student said the news of the possible case at Howard was a double whammy, as the first person to develop Ebola in the United States during the recent outbreak is being treated in her home state of Texas.
Howard University and its hospital have been reluctant to share further details about the case on Friday afternoon. In a statement, university spokesperson Dr. Kerry Ann Hamilton said the university would “provide periodic updates as information becomes available,” but the hospital is being careful to avoid running afoul of patient privacy laws.
For Newby, the university’s precaution was appreciated. “The second people see Ebola and Howard in the same sentence they assume it means there’s Ebola on Howard’s campus.” And that’s nowhere near accurate.