Recent outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa lead to precautions

By Meghan Webber

Due to the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the University will be taking extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of its students.

Each year, international students are required to go through a health screening to confirm they comply with required immunizations. According to Dr. Robert Palinkas, director at McKinley Health Center, approximately 3,000 international students will undergo the screening with additional steps.

“This year, all of these students are also asked if they have traveled to or from one of the four Ebola affected West African countries and if they may have had contact with individuals who may have had an Ebola infection,” Palinkas said. “Students from an affected area or with possible contact with an Ebola infection undergo a brief private screening session to assess their health and potential risk for the disease.”

In addition to the extended screening, the University has suspended study abroad programs to Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa, for the fall. 

“Students looking to study in West Africa should understand that our primary concern is their safety and that changes in programs to Sierra Leone were related to the resources that we felt were available to us so that we can respond effectively to any unforeseen issues that may arise,” said Bo White, assistant director for international health and safety at the University. 

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    According to Andrea Bordeau, a specialist on health and safety for international projects in the Study Abroad Office, there were no students planning to study abroad in Sierra Leone when the decision was made to suspend the program.  

    “The University has long-standing relationships in Sierra Leone,” Bordeau said. “The suspension of study abroad programs in Sierra Leone for this fall is not forever: We will continue to look at the issue to determine whether it is safe to continue the program in the winter and spring sessions.”

    Although Ebola is not seen as a threat to the United States, the University still wants students to stay healthy and aware. 

    “Eat a balanced and appropriate diet, get adequate water, get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, avoid unhealthy foods, excessive alcohol or use of drugs, avoid tobacco use or exposure, use barrier protection during sex and seek care when illness emerges,” Palinkas said. “Finally, one should not travel to affected areas experiencing Ebola contagion unless it is essential.”

    Meghan can be reached at [email protected].