On August 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidance regarding Ebola virus disease for colleges, universities and students.
According to the CDC, the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa continues to unfold and additional cases continue to be identified. As of August 28, there were 1,752 laboratory confirmed cases and 1,552 suspected case deaths worldwide. With significant international travel and educational foreign exchange programs, the CDC says there is a possibility that student, faculty, or staff who travel from areas where Ebola is present could arrive in the United States.
The CDC offers the following guidelines regarding EVD in a Question-Answer format:
Advice for Students and Faculty Arriving to US Campuses from Countries where the Ebola Outbreaks are Happening
What are the special recommendations for student health centers?
- CDC recommendations for student health centers are the same as those for other US health care workers and settings.
- Student health center clinicians should refer to the CDC Ebola Virus Disease Information for Clinicians in US Healthcare Settings for more information on symptoms, exposure risks, and infection control measures.
- While Ebola poses little risk to the US general population, clinicians are advised to be alert for signs and symptoms of Ebola in patients who have a recent (within 21 days) travel history to countries where the outbreak is occurring or have had contact with a person infected with Ebola. In the event that a potential case is identified, clinicians should isolate the patient pending diagnostic testing.
- Although not a full list of precautions, student health center clinicians should be sure to follow these steps when caring for someone who is sick or may be sick with Ebola:
- Separate patient in a private room with its own bathroom.
- Use proper infection prevention and control measures; standard, contact, and droplet precautions are recommended if Ebola is suspected.
- Wear the right personal protective equipment (PPE) , including masks, gloves, gowns, facemask and eye protection, when entering the patient care area. Before leaving the patient area, carefully remove PPE and make sure not to contaminate your skin and clothing. Dispose of PPE as biohazard waste.
- After removing PPE, wash your hands using soap and water (preferred) or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Use soap and water when hands are visibly dirty.
- Notify your local or state health department immediately if Ebola is suspected. The health department can provide additional guidance regarding medical evaluation or testing, if indicated.
- Follow protocols for cleaning and disinfecting reusable medical equipment and proper disposal of needles and other disposable equipment.
Should colleges and universities isolate or quarantine students and faculty who have recently returned to the US from countries where the Ebola outbreaks are occurring?
- CDC is not recommending colleges and universities isolate or quarantine students, faculty, or staff based on travel history alone.
- Colleges and universities should identify students, faculty, and staff who have been in countries where Ebola outbreaks are occurring within the past 21 days and should conduct a risk assessment with each identified person to determine his or her level of risk exposure(high- or low-risk exposures, or no known exposure).
- All students, faculty, and staff who have been in these countries within the past 21 days should be given instructions for health monitoring (see below).
- 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. Anyone with a potential exposure should receive thorough education about immediately reporting symptoms and staying away from other people if symptoms develop.
- In the event that a person who has had a high- or low-risk exposure develops symptoms consistent with Ebola, the person should be medically evaluated while following recommended infection control precautions. Guidance is available in the CDC Ebola Virus Disease Information for Clinicians in U.S. Healthcare Settings. Public health authorities should be notified.
What can colleges and universities do to keep people on campus safe from Ebola?
Ensure that student health center staff are aware of exposure risks, signs and symptoms of Ebola and are prepared to follow recommendations in the CDC Health Advisory: Guidelines for Evaluation of US Patients Suspected of Having Ebola Virus Disease.
- Provide Ebola education to all people who have recently arrived from countries where outbreaks are occurring covering the following topics:
- Self-monitoring for symptoms
- Reporting procedures for those who develop symptoms
- Importance of immediately reporting symptoms and staying separated from other people as soon as symptoms develop
- Consider posting information in dorms and other campus buildings with recommendations for people who have recently arrived from countries where Ebola outbreaks are occurring.
For Students, Faculty, and Staff Who Have Recently Traveled to Countries Where the Ebola Outbreaks Are Happening
What should I do if I have traveled to one of the countries where the Ebola outbreaks are happening?
See CDC’s Interim Guidance for Monitoring and Movement of Persons with Ebola Virus Disease Exposure to learn about your risk level.
Pay attention to your health after you return:
- Monitor your health for 21 days.
- Take your temperature every morning and evening.
- Watch for other Ebola symptoms: severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.
- If your temperature is above 101.5°F (38.6°C) or you have any other Ebola signs or symptoms, seek medical care immediately.
- Call and tell the doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms before you go to the doctor’s office or hospital. Advance notice will help the doctor care for you and protect other people who may be in the doctor’s office or hospital.
- Limit your contact with other people when you travel to the doctor; avoid public transportation.
- Do not travel anywhere except to the doctor’s office or hospital.
- Limit your contact with other people if you are sick. Do not go to work, classes, or other student activities until you have been medically evaluated.
- During the time that you are monitoring your health, if you have no symptoms, you can continue your normal activities, including work and school. If you get symptoms of Ebola, it is important to stay separated from other people and to call your doctor right away.
What should I do if I have traveled to one of the countries where the Ebola outbreaks are happening and have been exposed to Ebola?
- If you were exposed to people who had Ebola, or their blood or body fluids, talk with a school administrator or student health center staff even if you do not have symptoms. They will tell you what school-specific instructions you should follow. A doctor should evaluate your exposure level and symptoms if you have them and consult with public health authorities to determine if actions— such as medical evaluation and testing for Ebola, monitoring, or travel restrictions— are needed.
- Follow the instructions above for monitoring your health.
What should I do to protect my health if I come in contact with people on campus who have recently returned from a country where the Ebola outbreaks are happening?
- Ebola poses little risk to the US general population and is not contagious until symptoms appear. It is spread through direct contact with body fluids (blood, urine, feces, saliva, semen, and other secretions) of an infected person, or with objects like needles that have been contaminated with body secretions. This includes through intimate contact, such as sex, since Ebola can still be found in semen for 7 weeks after a person has recovered.
- It is always good to avoid contact with anyone who is sick and to wash your hands regularly. Use soap and water if available, or use hand sanitizer. Doing so can help you prevent getting sick from many different illnesses.