The extensive news coverage of the Ebola crisis in West Africa and of the small number of cases in the U.S. has heightened concerns about the potential spread of the disease to our community. We have had inquiries from some travelers regarding travel policies or advisories related to the Ebola outbreak.
While Wayne State University students, faculty and staff travel all over the world for many reasons, including research and education, we currently have no academic programs or study abroad relationships with any of the West African countries suffering from the Ebola outbreak.
It is important to keep in mind that while Ebola is a terrible and deadly disease, it is extremely rare in the United States. As I write this, there are few cases Ebola in the United States, most involving health care professionals who contracted the illness while treating an infected individual from Liberia. Yesterday, we learned of a fourth confirmed case, a Doctor’s Without Borders physician and Wayne State University School of Medicine graduate, who had returned from Guinea more than a week ago.
Unlike many other diseases, Ebola is not very contagious. To contract Ebola, it is necessary to come into contact with the bodily fluids of someone who actually has Ebola. People who contract Ebola typically develop symptoms within a few days of exposure. According to medical professionals and the Centers for Disease Control, if someone does not develop Ebola within 21 days of such contact, he or she does not have Ebola. There is no reason to be concerned that someone who resides in the United States and happens to come from West Africa is a carrier of Ebola.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Ebola outbreak is widespread in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. There is a smaller and apparently unrelated Ebola outbreak in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Travel to any of these countries should be postponed indefinitely. Ebola is not currently found elsewhere in West Africa, and there are no Ebola-related restrictions regarding travel elsewhere.
The CDC has recently published "Advice for Colleges, Universities and Students about Ebola in West Africa." I encourage you to take a moment to review it. It can be found at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/advice-for-colleges-universities-and-students-about-ebola-in-west-africa. If you plan to travel to West Africa, we ask that you first notify the Office of International Programs (OIP) at firstname.lastname@example.org. It also is advisable to check CDC travel advisories. They may be found online at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices. We will continue to monitor Ebola-related travel advisories, and will post important updates on the OIP site.
To be sure Wayne State is as prepared as possible, I’ve asked our Crisis Management Team to discuss the Ebola outbreak and closely monitor developments. Several members of the team met yesterday with medical experts who are well versed on the appropriate steps to take should Ebola be discovered on or around our campus. Please be assured that we will keep you apprised of any local concerns that arise from the Ebola outbreak.
M. Roy Wilson