Sunday, September 21, 2014
American colleges and universities are now on high alert and are being instructed to take extra precautions against the potential spread of incoming Ebola. Students traveling abroad to Ebola-stricken countries like Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria or Sierra Leone run the risk of bringing the virus back to US campuses. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now urging all US colleges to implement additional safety measures to prevent accidental spread of Ebola.
CDC officials are encouraging university staff members to ask returning students important questions about possible symptoms, including suspicious fever, body aches, headaches, diarrhea, unexplained bleeding and bruising. Any student returning from an Ebola-stricken country within the past 21 days is to be closely monitored upon returning to the US. (Ebola has a maximum incubation period of 21 days before symptoms appear.)
The CDC is even instructing students to monitor their temperature twice daily for a 21-day period, regardless of their symptoms. The CDC is essentially warning universities to prepare for a potential Ebola pandemic.
“If a student, faculty, or staff member has had a high- or low-risk exposure, state or local public health authorities should be notified, and school officials should consult with public health authorities for guidance about how that person should be monitored,” the CDC advises.
The CDC instructs any student with a fever of 101.5°F or higher to seek immediate medical care, while warning the hospital and doctors beforehand for special safety preparations. Students are also advised not to take public transportation within a 21-day period.
The countries most affected by Ebola outbreaks, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, send nearly 400 students each year to American colleges and universities. Nigeria sends an additional 7,000 students yearly.
Is America’s medical system better equipped to handle Ebola outbreak?
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Robert Winfield, the University of Michigan’s Chief Health Officer, stated, “We’re walking a line of trying to be vigilant and have a safe environment, without raising the kind of alarm that would unnecessarily escalate the stigma and isolation of people.” So far, no cases of Ebola have been isolated.
Epidemiology Professor Eden Wells, associate director of the University’s Preventive Medicine Residency Program, commented, “Yes, we probably will have someone arrive on a plane (with Ebola). But we have a public health system in place that we could immediately isolate the patient and quarantine anyone who was exposed, and that’s been quite effective. So we would not see the spread or the problems that we’ve seen in this area.”
Professor Wells believes that US officials will use quarantine to prevent outbreaks as large as the ones seen in West Africa, where over 2,000 people have died.
“There’s a lot of fear. When the locals are becoming ill, they are returning to their villages and places they feel comfortable. Unfortunately, that can lead to spread.” Wells believes that during an outbreak it’s better to register for treatment and not be scared of medical quarantine. He points out that the four cases of Ebola treated in the US have been successful, allowing two patients to return to their normal lives.
America might be more susceptible to outbreak than experts think
If an outbreak were to spread from a US university, a peaceful quarantine could turn into a state of martial law. Entire campuses could be locked down like what’s going on in villages in Liberia. Pictures show armed guards keeping people from accessing nearby airports.
In the US, the National Guard may be called in to enforce boundaries and restrict travel, as the federal government takes over, dispersing hazmat suits that they recently obtained by the hundreds of thousands.
At this point, it may be even more dangerous to be registered for medical treatment. Americans would quickly respond in fear and panic. Non-infected and suspected persons could be misdiagnosed and thrown into quarantine zones where they then get the virus from those who are infected. Along with that, hospitals in America are already brimming with patients. If an outbreak started like it did in West Africa, America wouldn’t be any better equipped to face the problem. If anything, the immune-system-suppressed general population in the US, living on processed and fast foods, would be more susceptible to the wrath of a viral pandemic.
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