University News

In face of Ebola, U. urges caution

Alum is third confirmed American to contract virus in current West Africa outbreak

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, September 5, 2014

Updated Sept. 6 at 3:35 p.m.

Amid the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the University is encouraging community members to proceed carefully with travel to the region.

Though there have not been any reported cases of current students or faculty members contracting the disease, Edward Wheeler, medical director of Health Services, emphatically urged those who have traveled or are planning to travel to the affected areas to take all necessary precautions.

Thus far, Health Services is not aware of anyone who has been exposed to the virus, Wheeler said.

Meanwhile, an alum became the third American confirmed to have contracted the disease this week.

While Wheeler said the risk of Ebola “to the Brown community is very minimal,” he added that “there’s no way we can possibly know where someone went.” So any individual who has been exposed to the virus should “come forward,” he added.

Anyone who recently visited the affected region — which includes Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria — should be aware of the incubation period, monitor symptoms and seek support from Health Services if needed, wrote Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn in a campus-wide email Aug. 18. The first case of the disease in the most recent Ebola outbreak was reported in Guinea in February.

“People who have traveled to those areas should monitor themselves for 21 days after they leave,” Wheeler said. “That would be taking your temperature once in the morning and once in the evening. If you develop a fever or significant other symptoms, let us know.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control website, the incubation period for Ebola is estimated to last two to 21 days, though symptoms commonly appear between eight to 10 days after contraction, and include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with blood and bodily fluids and cannot be spread by air, water or food, according to the CDC.

“The concern would be if there is a non-medical faculty member who happened to travel to that place,” said Monica Kunkel, Health Services’ nursing and inpatient services coordinator.

News outlets reported this week that Richard Sacra ’84 contracted the Ebola virus while in Liberia practicing medicine unrelated to the current outbreak. After being treated in an isolation unit of a hospital in Monrovia, he was scheduled to be transported to the United States Friday. He is the third American reported to be infected by the outbreak.

“As people are returning to campus, we are really thinking about what might we need to know about our community, what precautions we should be taking,” Klawunn told The Herald. “People have to follow state department warnings.”

In the interest of protecting “the health and safety of our community members at home and abroad,” the email requested that all non-essential travel to the affected areas be canceled.

“It is wise for people who want to travel to check the CDC advisories before they travel,” Kunkel said.

“Students from those countries who need to return home should follow the guidance of their own Ministry of Health to protect themselves from contracting the virus,” wrote Adam Levine, assistant professor of emergency medicine, in an email to The Herald. Levine is currently in Liberia responding to the outbreak as a member of the Emergency Response Team for International Medical Corp.

“Brown students should not travel to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone at this time unless they are responding to the Ebola outbreak with a professional humanitarian organization,” he wrote.

“We have the same kind of protocol for Ebola that we have when there have been other diseases that we think can come back into the community over break,” Klawunn said.

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