Ebola update responds to more questions from the community

November 18, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Officials continue to acknowledge that the risk of contracting the Ebola virus across the Commonwealth is extremely low, and are steadfast in educating and updating our community.

As part of ongoing efforts to inform and assure community members of their health and wellness, the FAQ section of Penn State’s website dedicated to Ebola is being constantly updated. 

New questions from those who work in close contact or a confined space with others, or who must handle bodily fluids, or those who plan travel are now being asked. University officials, as well as emergency responders and municipal officials in the region are working to answer concerns and tamp down any misinformation about the disease. A new section of the Ebola FAQ on Penn State’s website has been updated.

Visit here for new information: http://sites.psu.edu/ebolainfo/faqs/#update11182014

National health care officials estimate that in the United States, the risk of contracting Ebola is 1 in 13.3 million if there are 12 cases imported from other countries. There have been four confirmed cases in the U.S. and two deaths. The chances are better that someone would die from a lightning strike, bee stings or a shark attack, according to a recent biological model created by scientists and published by National Public Radio.

“Despite the extremely low risk this poses, we still must anticipate questions and issues that could cause unease in our community, and share the best facts that can hopefully tamp down unwarranted fear,” said Robin Oliver, director of women's health and interim medical director at Penn State’s University Health Services. “By working with our community and campuses across the Commonwealth, we can take a more uniform approach, speak with one voice and disseminate one set of facts.”

Thanksgiving break

With the University’s upcoming break surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday (Nov. 21-29 for students), there may be questions related to possible travel by some to areas that are on the Ebola watch list. As announced on Oct. 8, Penn State has placed a temporary moratorium on official University travel to affected countries, but the University has no authority over personal travel.

However, before heading off for Thanksgiving break, Penn State officials will be in touch with students from countries experiencing an Ebola outbreak (Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, as well as Mali, which was added Nov. 17) seeking information on their travel plans. Students will be advised on what to expect if they visit an Ebola-risk country and what to expect when they return to the U.S.

Anyone arriving in the U.S. from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone or Mali, will be medically evaluated upon arrival at one of the five airports that have implemented enhanced screening measures — New York’s JFK, Newark, Dulles, Atlanta and Chicago. Travelers from Ebola-affected areas are required to come through one of these checkpoints and are expected to provide health authorities with their travel itineraries. They will be monitored daily by the Pennsylvania Department of Health once they arrive back in the Commonwealth. Monitoring will continue for 21 days. University Health Services will continue to work closely with the state Department of Health.

Based on a traveler’s level of possible exposure to Ebola, your travel and public activities may be limited.

Anyone experiencing fever or other symptoms, should seek medical care immediately. Follow the directions the public health worker tells you. But if you cannot reach someone right away, you can contact your state health department or call the CDC at 1-800-232-4636. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.

Community collaboration

Shawn Kauffman, emergency management coordinator for the Centre Region, echoed Oliver-Veronesi’s statement saying that Centre Region agencies and the University have been collaborating through a joint Infectious Hazards Working Group and are creating a more coordinated response that will allow quick action if and when an infectious disease is diagnosed.

“There is very little likelihood that people in our community will be exposed to Ebola,” Kauffman said. “Nonetheless, we wish to be as well-prepared as we can possibly be and well-coordinated in any response.”

Emergency responders and health care professionals are closely following all recommendations from the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health and are in regular communications with those agencies.

“Keeping people across the region and the state informed about the minimal risk of Ebola and the ways it is contracted, as well as other key points, is critical to our ability to respond in a calm and reasoned manner,” Kauffman said. “We know the risk is extremely low. Being prepared, understanding the facts and working together will keep it that way.”

For more information on what Penn State is doing related to Ebola, visit: http://sites.psu.edu/ebolainfo/.

  • A closeup of the ebola virus

    A closeup of the Ebola virus.

    IMAGE: CDC - Nat. Center for Infectious Diseases; Special Pathogens Branch

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2014