FLORENCE, Italy (CBS) — Three local women studying abroad are living in fear of the coronavirus.

The students told CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar the outbreak has consumed their lives.

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The three Chicago area students are studying and traveling abroad in Italy – a country that has seen a spike in coronavirus cases recently. Concerns over the spread of the virus could bring their entire time in Europe to an abrupt end.

The young women had been experiencing a dream semester of studying abroad in Florence, Italy and traveling Europe. But now, that is overshadowed by the spread of the coronavirus and the resulting disease of COVID-19.

Hannah Stanton is from Park Ridge and attends the University of Illinois.

“It’s kind of just like taken over everything,” she said. “Like I think basically, all we’re thinking about is the coronavirus.”

Two of the young women attend the U of I, and a third attends Illinois State. They had planned to travel plans to Milan this weekend, but Milan is the epicenter of the Italian outbreak.

So that trip has been put on hold, and the students’ semester in jeopardy of ending short.

All over Italy, people in protective masks is a common sight. Restaurants empty, all over concerns of the spread of the coronavirus.

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“There’s just a lot of stress about whether we’re going be able to continue with our program or if we’re going to be sent home,” said Carly Kwiecinski of Wilmette, who also attends the U of I.

“Our main concern is just kind of staying away from like the big areas and like the traveling aspect and everything, just because that’s where you’re most likely to get the coronavirus,” said Lauren Tassi of Lake Zurich, who attends Illinois State. “So we’re just following those precautions that we’ve been given.”

Back in Chicago, organizers are taking precautions at this year’s C2E2 comic convention at McCormick Place.

“There’s a lot of fist bumps instead of handshakes this year,” said C2E2 event director Kristina Rogers.

Organizers even put a warning on the convention website about the virus.

“We have Purell wipes everywhere. All of our info booths are stocked with disinfectants,” Rogers said.

And at area schools, the virus is a major subject for administrators. At least a dozen schools have sent letters home to parents warning about the virus.

Meanwhile back in Italy, Stanton said, “We’re just trying to live as much as we can while this is going on, but we also want to be safe and careful.”

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The students we spoke with said along with listening to their worried parents back in the U.S., they are also paying close attention to instructions from their universities and making decisions as they get more information.

Charlie De Mar