October 16, 2014

Citing Ebola, Cornell Mandates Travel Restrictions to West African Countries

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In light of the recent global Ebola outbreak, the University has placed restrictions on travel to West Africa, the University said in an email sent to Cornellians Thursday evening.

The University guidelines prevent students, faculty and staff from traveling for study abroad, research, internships, service, conferences, presentations, teaching, performances, recruiting or athletic competitions in the West African nations under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel warnings. Currently, those nations include Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the University.

The message to all students was authored by Fredrik Logevall, vice provost for international affairs, Janet Corson-Rikert,  associate vice president for campus health- and director of Gannett Health Services, and Craig McAllister, director of  risk management and insurance and chair of the Student Insurance Advisory Committee.

Ebola is a highly infectious, incurable viral disease that is currently thought to only be spread through direct contact with body fluids, according to the message.

According to the University, travel to those countries for personal reasons — as well as hosting visitors from those countries — is “strongly discouraged.”

Students who have traveled to affected countries or had contact with individuals who have been exposed to Ebola are required to contact Gannett by phone to “establish plans for monitoring [their] health and protecting others” before returning to campus, according to the University.

Cornell medical, safety and administrative staff and faculty have been “engaged since mid-summer in implementing best practices to protect individual health and the safety of our community,” the email stated. Some of the preparations have included collaboration with public health officials, targeted outreach to potentially affected individuals and provision of information.

“In spite of the ubiquitous news coverage and very serious nature of this disease, Ebola is rare outside of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” the email said.

The University described the current Ebola outbreak — which has taken more than 4,500 lives so far, according to NBC news — as “devastating,”  the University said.

“We have been following with concern the emergence of what has been called the ‘largest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history,’”the University said.

Thursday afternoon, initial test results for a Yale graduate student suspected of having Ebola came back negative, according to The Yale Daily News. The student had recently returned from researching Ebola in Liberia and was admitted to the Yale-New Haven Hospital Wednesday night with Ebola-like symptoms.

“The patient came in direct contact with NBC cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, who was diagnosed with Ebola on Oct. 1. The patient indicated that contact came the day before Mukpo developed symptoms,” the article stated.

The Yale patient will be quarantined for 21 days, according to The Yale Daily News. The hospital is currently waiting for the results of more laboratory tests.

If the Ebola virus were to spread to New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) said the state of New York is prepared to handle the virus.

“I’m announcing a thorough effort involving multiple state agencies and authorities that will ensure we are prepared to address even the slightest possibility of this disease,” Cuomo said at a press conference Thursday.