We have recently experienced the largest Ebola outbreak in history and the first in West Africa. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other U.S. government agencies and international partners have taken steps to respond to these developments. Fortunately, it is not felt that Ebola presently poses a substantial risk to the U.S. general population.
A person infected with Ebola virus is not contagious until symptoms appear. The virus is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the body fluids (blood, urine, feces, saliva, and other secretions) of a person who is sick with Ebola, or with objects like needles that have been contaminated with the virus, or infected animals. Ebola is not spread through the air or by water or, in general, by food; however, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of hunting, processing, and consumption of infected animals (e.g., bushmeat).
Risk of Ebola Infection:
The number of cases of Ebola in the United States has been very limited. As you must come in direct contact with an infected, symptomatic person to contract the virus, the risk of contracting Ebola in the United States remains extremely low.
The recent Ebola Virus outbreak was predominately reported in three West African countries – Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
The previous attention given to Ebola in the news caused many to become concerned. Previous occurrences of Ebola Virus Disease in healthcare workers that had treated Ebola patients heightened these concerns. Knowing more about this infection, however, has helped to alleviate the fears of many.
The best protection against Ebola infection is to avoid direct contact with infected individuals and avoid travel to affected areas.
University officials are continually monitoring for the development of health and safety issues that may impact our campus community. The University has prepared a plan of action and has designated specific departments as responders in the event of an outbreak of a disease affecting our campus. Due to this present concern, all responsible parties have reviewed the plan and are fully familiar with their responsibilities and procedures. They stand ready to respond in the event of an occurrence in our area.
As the public health agency for our campus, our Student Health Center, in conjunction with the University’s Office of Emergency Management, has been actively communicating with officials at the Knox County Health Department and continue to receive frequent communications from other State and Federal health officials.
The University has assessed the risk of a small number of students who come from affected areas. At this time, we have identified no students considered to be at risk for Ebola infection. Additionally, all official University travel is monitored, and requests to travel to any affected countries receive added scrutiny.
CDC Travel Alerts:
CDC no longer recommends that US residents practice enhanced precautions when traveling to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Although there is believed to be no risk of Ebola to travelers, travelers should, as usual, avoid contact with sick people, dead bodies, or blood and body fluids. Additionally, the health infrastructure in Liberia had been severely strained by the Ebola outbreak but is now returning to normal.
All three of the most affected countries—Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—have now been declared free of Ebola transmission, although the risk of additional small outbreaks continues. As of December 29, 2015, enhanced entry screening and monitoring have changed for travelers entering the United States from Guinea. These travelers will continue to enter the United States through one of the designated U.S. airports conducting enhanced entry screening. However, CDC no longer recommends active monitoring for travelers arriving in the United States from Guinea. As of December 22, 2015, enhanced entry screening has been discontinued for travelers coming to the United States from Sierra Leone. These travelers will no longer be funneled through one of the U.S. airports conducting enhanced entry screening.
Ebola Risk Assessments for UT Students, Faculty, and Staff:
UT students, faculty, or staff who have traveled in affected regions of widespread transmission and who are concerned that they may have been exposed to an ill patient with Ebola infection, are encouraged to contact our Telephone Triage Nurse at (865) 974-5080 to receive an Ebola Virus Disease Risk Assessment. Information regarding your risk and needed additional advice pertaining to your particular circumstances will be provided. This brief assessment performed over the phone is offered as a free service to our campus community.
CDC Recommendations on Monitoring Present/Recent Travelers:
CDC recommends that travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone watch their health for fever or other symptoms of Ebola for 21 days after they leave Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone. They should contact their state or local health department or seek health care if symptoms develop during this time.
Symptoms of Ebola infection include a fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, abdominal pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite, rash, red eyes, hiccups, cough, chest pain, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, and bleeding inside or outside the body.
Any traveler to an affected region where transmission has recently occurred (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) who becomes ill during their travel or during the 21 days subsequent to their travel, even if only a fever, should remain separated from other people as soon as symptoms develop and consult a health-care provider immediately. Be sure to inform him or her about your recent travel and any potential contacts.
Students eligible for care at the Student Health Center are encouraged to contact the Telephone Triage Nurse at (865) 974-5080 or, if after hours, contact your nearest Emergency Room.
Be sure to inform the healthcare provider about your symptoms and travel history prior to going to the office or emergency room so arrangements can be made, if necessary, to prevent transmission to others in the health-care setting.
Additional Ebola and Other Travel Related Health Threats Information Resources:
The CDC’s Traveler’s Health webpage is an excellent resource for travel related health threats world-wide. You may connect to this resource by copying and pasting the following link in your web browser: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices