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Penn State Monitors International Students Under CDC Ebola Guidelines

by on September 08, 2014 6:15 AM

Penn State University is monitoring a small group of international students in compliance with Ebola prevention guidelines offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Penn State spokesman L. Reidar Jensen says the guidelines were issued by the CDC on Aug. 29 and university medical personnel have been in touch with all known Penn State students, roughly 80, who have traveled to and from countries dealing with the Ebola outbreak.

Anyone who may be identified as potentially at-risk for exposure will receive a follow-up screening from a university medical professional, says Jensen.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is being called the largest in history. According to the CDC there are already 3,707 confirmed or suspected cases. Deaths believed to have been caused by Ebola now total 1,848.

Ebola cases have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and recently a small number of cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the CDC.

"In general, medical personnel are encouraging all members of the Penn State community who have traveled within the past 21 days to an area that currently is experiencing an outbreak of Ebola to monitor for fever and symptoms daily," says Jensen. "If an individual develops symptoms, they are being instructed to contact their local medical provider (or University Health Services in the case of students) for follow up."

Signs and symptoms of Ebola include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising. Symptoms can appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, says the CDC.

The Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with blood and body fluids.

So far, Jensen says no immediate threat to the region has been identified.

"UHS staff and medical personnel are closely following all recommendations from the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and are continuing to work closely with university and community colleagues to determine risk and ensure the safety of the community," says Jensen.

Marlene Stetson, infection control and prevention coordinator at Mount Nittany Medical Center, says if a patient were to have symptoms consistent with Ebola virus and the patient had recent contact with another infected individual or had recently been to areas in facing Ebola outbreaks, appropriate or recommended infection control precautions would be followed.

Stetson says that would include recommendations from the CDC and the World Health Organization. Guidelines include isolation of the infected patient, gloves, face protection including a mask and goggles, a long-sleeved gown, and regular hand washing.

"Recognizing that we live in a global community, Mount Nittany Health works closely with other community partners such as The Pennsylvania State University and Department of Health to prepare for evolving health crises such as Ebola virus," says Stetson. "At this point, awareness is key. At Mount Nittany Health, we are continuing to monitor and stay informed about Ebola virus and the evolving outbreak."

Stetson says the hospital's policies and procedures, staff training and education, and equipment and supplies are designed to account for unanticipated illnesses and medical adversities, including infectious diseases like the Ebola virus.

"Though the threat of such an outbreak in the U.S. is low, Mount Nittany Health is prepared to implement additional screening tools and other strategies to effectively identify and manage infected patients," says Stetson.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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