Ebola outbreak leads to precautionary screenings

By Meghan Webber

The recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has led the University to take a few extra precautionary steps, including additional screening for students who may be traveling from the affected areas.

According to Andrea Bordeau, a specialist for International Projects in the Study Abroad Office, no University students traveled to West Africa over the summer to study abroad, and none had plans to do so during the fall semester. But as a precaution, the Study Abroad Office suspended the Sierra Leone program for the fall.  

“Newly admitted international students are screened for compliance with immunization rules and TB soon after their arrival on campus,” said Dr. Robert Palinkas, director at McKinley Health Center. “This screening process has been a standard practice for many years due to state laws and University policies.”

During the private screenings, students are asked whether they have traveled to or from infected areas, or if they have come in contact with anyone who may be infected.

“They also receive educational material which encourages early diagnosis and treatment,” Palinkas said. “We want everyone to know that McKinley is ready and eager to provide services to students if they think they might have risk for Ebola infection.”

However, the risk period for the virus in international students is almost over.

“Once they individually pass 21 days since being in one of the four (West African) countries, they can no longer harbor incubating Ebola infection,” Palinkas said.

Though Ebola is not currently seen as a threat in the United States, the University is still watching the outbreak.

“We continue to monitor the situation and have sought to have accurate information,” said Bo White, assistant director of International Health and Safety, in an email. “We recognize that this is a sensitive issue and one that’s received a lot of attention worldwide, so we have sought to consult sources both in country and through such resources as the U.S. State Department, the CDC, and even humanitarian groups.”

Meghan can be reached at [email protected]