Ebola Response Q & A

This fall, there has been heightened public attention surrounding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the related isolated cases that occurred in the U.S. Throughout this situation, the College has been proactively monitoring the international and domestic response to Ebola and its impact on college-related travel. The College’s International Risk Management Committee has met as needed this semester and has already been in direct contact with all students and employees whose travel may have impacted for J-Term. Although media coverage of the Ebola outbreak continues to slow, we want to assure the campus community that the Crisis Management Team and the International Risk Management Committee will continue to monitor this international health situation in a measured and proactive way.

The information below will help answer questions you may have about Ebola and the current state of Messiah College’s response.

Basic background questions about Ebola
Source: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a rare, often fatal disease in humans and some animals. It is caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains, named for the Ebola River in Africa where the virus was first discovered in 1976.

You can read more at http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/about.html

What are the signs/symptoms of Ebola?

Symptoms of Ebola include:

  • Fever (greater than 101.5°F or 38.6°C)
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.

How is Ebola spread?

Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with

  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
  • objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
  • infected animals

Ebola is not spread through the air or, in general, by water or food, unless those items have been in direct contact with the items listed above. You can read more about the transmission of Ebola at http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/qas.html

Messiah College community travel/international origin

Are Messiah College students and faculty currently traveling to areas where Ebola is most prevalent?

To the best of our knowledge, Messiah College does not currently have students, faculty or other employees on college-sponsored travel (i.e., cross-cultural/study abroad courses; foreign exchange; missions, research or other educational-related travel) to or from the three West African nations experiencing Ebola outbreaks (Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia, or Sierra Leone). The College has also not sponsored any of this type of travel to these countries in the past 30 days or in the coming months. The closest countries where we have students or employees right now is in Rwanda and Uganda (neither of which border outbreak nations). Messiah College is daily monitoring the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s international travel advisories and our program partners there have comprehensive safety protocols and procedures in place should evacuation become necessary.

Are there any plans to cancel upcoming college-related travel to other West African countries—or to all African countries―as a precautionary measure?

Messiah College defines West Africa as a collection of 17 countries in the westernmost region of the African continent. They include: Benin, Burkina Faso, island of Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, island of Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo.

As a precautionary measure, Messiah College has canceled J-term 2015 study-abroad trips to Ghana and Burkina Faso. Additionally, the College prohibits any student to travel to/from West Africa for college-related purposes until the outbreak is contained in that area, and declared as such by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and/or the World Health Organization (WHO).

Messiah College will allow trips outside West Africa to move forward, but will continue to closely monitor. If an Ebola case emerges in any country where we are sending students or currently have students, the College will automatically review country-specific experiences, with the College absorbing any potential financial loss of canceling the trip or bringing students home early.

How long is the outbreak going to last? Will it be safe to travel in the spring semester?

According to the CDC, it is impossible to predict with complete certainty how long an outbreak might last in West Africa. Colleges and universities should consider the likelihood that the outbreak could continue for months and that CDC’s recommendation to avoid non-essential travel may remain in place for as long as the outbreak lasts. This might mean not traveling to the affected area during the spring semester if the outbreak is still ongoing.

Messiah College will continue to monitor the outbreak in compliance with CDC and WHO recommendations and make plans for spring travel accordingly.

Are there any restrictions on Messiah students’ or employees’ personal travel at this time?

There is currently no College-imposed restriction on personal travel at this time. However, the College strongly urges students and employees to follow the U.S. State Department’s travel advisories and the CDC’s self-monitoring health guidelines when they travel domestically or abroad. Information for travelers can be found on the CDC’s website here.

What is Messiah’s plan of action should a student or employee traveling internationally begin showing signs and symptoms of Ebola?

Messiah College has a variety of protocols and practices in place to assist with students and employees who fall ill abroad, including:

  • International medical insurance in partnership with FrontierMEDEX, which includes emergency medical and evacuation coverage
  • Working closely with in-country partners who can provide immediate on-the-ground assistance in the event of illness
  • Registering each participant with the US State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure diplomatic assistance should the need arise
  • Institutional international crisis management team to help facilitate care

In the event a Messiah student or employee were to show signs and symptoms of Ebola while abroad, they would immediately report to the nearest healthcare facility, in partnership with FrontierMEDEX, to determine appropriate next steps with Messiah’s crisis management team, and in consultation with the US Embassy in country, as necessary.

Does Messiah College have any students who live in Ebola-affected areas of West Africa or other nearby countries?

Based on our records, we do not have any international, missionary or transcultural students from Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone, the three countries in which there are currently Ebola outbreaks.

Messiah’s emergency response

How is Messiah College responding to the international Ebola outbreak and recent cases in the U.S.?

In response to the first human-to-human transmission of Ebola in the United States (as of October 13, 2014), Messiah College’s Crisis Management Team began meeting regularly to:

  • establish a monitoring plan;
  • identify CDC best practices to apply to our community;
  • develop a communication strategy as needed for students, employees, parents and the community;
  • and identify potential risks from College-related international travel and determine appropriate risk-management. The College’s International Risk Management Committee has met to process decisions for college-related travel this fall and has already been in direct communication with students, their families, and employees whose travel plans were directly impacted by precautions taken as a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

In the rare instance a student, employee or visitor on campus was at risk for Ebola and began to show symptoms, what is the College’s protocol for quarantine and treatment?

In the interest of safety to the Messiah College community, if a student, employee or faculty member believes they’ve been exposed to Ebola and is showing symptoms, the following protocol would be in effect:

  • The individual should call the Engle Center at ext. 6035. If it is after-hours, he or she should follow the prompts to speak with the on-call nurse. Engle Center staff will triage appropriately. This may include keeping the individual where they are (isolated) until further instruction or going to the Engle Center, depending on circumstances.
  • Upon triage and if Ebola exposure is suspected, the Engle Center will contact the PA Department of Health for next steps.

How will the campus be notified if a student, faculty member or employee is suspected of having Ebola?

Messiah College will communicate all necessary safety information to students and employees through established channels such as mass email, the College hotline, the website and its emergency blog as detailed at http://www.messiah.edu/info/20297/students/1284/emergency_communication.

For additional CDC resources and information on Ebola visit http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/