Wednesday, October 22, 2014

School District dispels Ebola fears

Family returned from East Africa, thousands of miles from hot zones


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

    The family of at least one Blaine County student returned from Africa recently, sparking fear that the Ebola virus may have been brought to the Wood River Valley.
    The Blaine County School District issued an e-mail on Oct. 17 stating that there is no risk to the local community, based on information gathered from St. Luke’s Wood River hospital and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga.
    “We are aware of at least one family in our school system who recently returned from East Africa.  Their trip was not in West Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea),” wrote Blaine County Schools Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes.
    “According to current CDC guidelines, the level of threat is extremely low. We will make every effort to maintain their privacy and we hope you join us in creating a safe and welcoming community for all of our families, regardless of their travel outside of the area,” wrote Holmes.
    Holmes wrote that the School District is following all CDC prescribed guidelines and monitoring all students’ health and will intervene at “the first sign of illness.”
    “According to the current information from the CDC, it is important to know individuals are not contagious until symptoms appear,” Holmes stated. “Symptoms include a fever of greater than 101.4 F, and additional symptoms such as severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unexplained hemorrhage.”
    “There was quite a buzz in the community about their return and whether it was safe,” said Holmes in an interview. “We were receiving numerous phone calls and e-mails about this concern. The letter was put out to show that we are aware of it and that there is no danger, and that we monitor the health of all children in our care and provide intervention when needed.”
    Holmes said the family was on safari 3,100 miles away from the three countries impacted by Ebola.
    ‘That is as far away as Anchorage, Alaska, is from Tampa, Fla.,” said Holmes. “We don’t know what their travel itinerary was coming home. But we do know they were not in West Africa. This is an extremely hard disease to catch and you are not going to catch it from this incident.”
    Holmes said the CDC has no recommended protocol for schools with regard to Ebola. She said she did not know if the family had been screened by immigration officials when they returned to the U.S.
    “I have no idea,” said Holmes. “They have not been screened by us.”
    Holmes said the family was back at school on Monday and attendance was at regular levels.
    “While news of Ebola dominates the media, there are more immediate health concerns you should be aware of: enterovirus and flu,” Holmes said in her statement.
    “While there is not a vaccine to prevent illness from enteroviruses, the single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year,” she wrote.
Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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