Eastern Responds to Ebola in US

The beginning of autumn has ushered in cold weather, crisp leaves and sore throats. Because of the change in seasons and a general lack of sleep, students are more likely to get sick. But there is a new virus in the United States that supersedes the commonplace illnesses that usually accompany fall. It is difficult to stay up-to-date with the news without hearing something about this virus. Its scientific name: zaire ebolavirus. How it’s commonly referred to: Ebola.

This hemorrhagic virus is typically confined to countries in West Africa, where it was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Once a human is infected, the disease typically incubates for two to twenty-one days, after which time, the human begins to show symptoms. Ebola symptoms are similar to flu symptoms, and thus, the West African disease is initially difficult to differentiate from a common illness. Symptoms include: fever, chills, muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and unexplained bleeding. Once the virus develops, these symptoms become increasingly severe and can include jaundice, severe weight loss, mental confusion, shock and multi-organ failure. The disease is only transmitted from one person to another after these initial symptoms have begun, and its transmission is only through bodily fluids, i.e. blood, urine, sweat, etc. Ebola virus has a very high death rate of 50-90 percent.

The outbreak of 2014 is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa, Spain and the United States. So far there have been 4,922 deaths, with 2,705 in Liberia, 926 in Guinea, 1,281 in Sierra Leone, eight in Nigeria, one in the United States and one in Mali. This spread of the Ebola virus has caused the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to issue an in-depth online guide to Ebola, including its history, symptoms, risks of exposure, prevention, diagnosis, current cases, etc. The virus has also caused airports to instate new protocol for flights coming from West African countries, where the disease originated and continues to spread rapidly.

What is Eastern doing to protect its students from the virus? Perhaps most importantly, the university wants students to stay well-informed about the virus, its movement, symptoms and prevention. Student Development, in partnership with EU’s Health Center, is keeping students up-to-date via e-mail. Bettie Ann Brigham sent an e-mail regarding the virus’ affect on this community specifically. She wrote, “We will communicate changes if and when they occur . . . we hope that each member of the EU community will review these websites and become informed relative to the spread and prevention of contagion from this and any virus.” If students have questions, they should e-mail Student Development at studev@eastern.edu for further updates.

The most important items to take from Brigham’s e-mail: EU will ask new students from affected areas, or current students who choose to go home to affected areas, to remain away from Eastern for thirty days after entering or reentering the U.S. Only after they have been cleared by a licensed U.S. health official and approved by an Eastern Health Center staff member can such students reenter residence halls or classes.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]If students think they have been exposed to Ebola, they should report to a health care provider and e-mail or phone the EU Health Center immediately. Our Health Center is not equipped to handle Ebola and any cases which are reported will be immediately referred to a locally equipped hospital. Eastern recommends following the CDC’s recommendation of social distancing, frequent hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces and keeping hands away from faces when around anyone with virus-like symptoms. Again, Eastern believes the virus’ most important defense is students staying informed, so be aware of the virus’ development and be prepared.[/box]

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