The Ebola Epidemic: Are Students Safe?

By Kristen Linsalata
Assistant News Editor

As a result of the Ebola epidemic permeating into the United States, LIU has assembled a comprehensive protocol in the unlikely case that a student, staff member, or faculty member becomes infected with the virus.

The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa. Most recently, the virus has broke out in the United States, causing one death on Oct. 8, and two local cases in healthcare workers who were treating Ebola patients in West Africa, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The recent outbreak has LIU Post students wondering: how does one contract the virus, how can you detect Ebola once one has contracted it, what would happen in the case of someone contracting the virus on campus, and how can we prevent it?

“First of all, we would have to determine if the student has been infected with the Ebola virus, which is highly, highly unlikely,” said Gale Haynes, Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Legal Counsel of Long Island University (LIU), LIU Brooklyn Provost, and, as her colleagues endearingly refer to her, “the Ebolizar.”

“If you traveled to an area such as West Africa, or if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has been infected with the virus, which would consist of touching, contact with an infected person’s waste products and bodily fluids, then a student might be at risk,” said Haynes. However, while the chances of someone becoming infected on either the Post or Brooklyn campus are remote, Haynes states that it is important to have a protocol and a process to deal with such a event.

There are misconceptions regarding how the Ebola virus is transmitted from one person to another. Some say that Ebola can be transmitted through the air in which we breathe; however, that is far from the truth. According to the CDC, Ebola is spread through:

• Broken skin or mucous membranes by direct contact with:

– Blood or body fluids

– Including but not limited to: urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and/or semen of a person who is sick with Ebola

• Objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus

• Infected fruit bats or primates

“It might be difficult for a student to determine if they are infected with the virus because the symptoms of the Ebola virus identically mirror the symptoms of the common flu,” Haynes said.

Symptoms include: fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and unexplained hemorrhage and bleeding. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is eight to 10 days, according to the CDC.

Haynes continued, “A student should take into account differentiating factors such as: have you been to West Africa within the last 21 days? Or, have you been in contact or exchanged bodily fluids with someone who has been to West Africa in the last 21 days?”

Once a student is infected, it is important for them to understand that they should not visit their local emergency room or medical clinic. “The CDC, [both] the city [and state] of New York, and the governor have mandated that if you believe that you have come into contact with Ebola, or if you might have it, you do not present yourself at an emergency room and you do not go to a doctor’s office,” Haynes said. “You must call 911 and share with them that you may in fact have been exposed to Ebola, and they will dispatch an appropriate ambulance to take you to a prepared site. This method limits the contact in the best possible way until they can be safely transmitted to an appropriate site.” The nearest designated site to LIU Post is North Shore LIJ Glen Cove Hospital located on 101 St. Andrews Lane, Glen Cove, NY, 11542.

On Oct. 16, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that he designated eight hospitals statewide to treat potential patients. The following eight hospitals have agreed to the designation, and are creating isolation units to accept patients: Mt. Sinai in Manhattan, New York Presbyterian in Manhattan, Bellevue in Manhattan, Montefiore in the Bronx, North Shore/LIJ Health System in Nassau County, Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, and Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island.

“The medical healthcare professions at the hospital will ask you to provide a list of people that you can come in contact with to prevent further spreading of the virus,” said Haynes. “In the case of an infected person in one of our residence halls, then an assessment of the site and appropriate cleaning of the site would be conducted.”

Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive care and the patient’s immune response. According to the CDC, basic interventions, when used early, can significantly improve the chances of survival such as:

• Providing intravenous fluids (IV)
• Balancing electrolytes (body salts)
• Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
• Treating other infections if they occur

In the case that you have traveled to West Africa, display symptoms and/or if you have been in contact with someone who has traveled from West Africa and exchanged bodily fluids over 21 days, which is the life-span of the Ebola virus, even if you are tested negative for the virus, you will be either quarantined in your home or in an appropriate facility, according to Haynes. On Oct. 24, Governor Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced the mandatory 21- day quarantine of individuals who come into contact with Ebola patients, even if they show no symptoms and test negative for the virus.

“If I was quarantined for 21 days, I would be worried if I would be able to make up the work for the semester,” Jenny Edengard, a junior English major. “I would have to probably retake my courses for the semester, which [isn’t desirable] because the quarantine is mandatory and beyond your control.”

Even though the likelihood of a student on LIU campuses contracting the Ebola virus is extremely rare, education about prevention, diagnosis, and treatment might be the difference between life and death for students, faculty, and staff. If you suspect that you, or a loved one, have contracted the Ebola virus, please dial 911, and do not leave your home. For more information about the regulations and policies regarding the Ebola virus, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/ index.html.

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Categories: News

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