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News & Announcements

Five College Ebola Information Sheet

August 11, 2014

Although the risk of contracting Ebola in the United States is extremely low, health care staff from the Five Colleges and local boards of health are taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the Five College community. Members of that team have protocols in place for dealing with many different types of public health issues, but out of an abundance of caution they have also developed a specific plan to respond in the unlikely event that the diagnosis of a case of Ebola directly affecting the campus community emerges. In addition, the group is closely monitoring the outbreak in Africa and will communicate with local officials, hospitals and emergency response agencies regularly to assess the situation. What follows are some frequently asked questions and answers about Ebola.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a severe, often fatal disease, discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There have been a number of outbreaks since its identification. The current outbreak has been ongoing in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for several months.

How is Ebola transmitted?

It is transmitted to people from wild animals, and spreads from human to human through direct contact, as when broken skin or mucous membranes come into contact with blood, bodily secretions, or needles contaminated with infected bodily fluids. Ebola is NOT airborne, foodborne or waterborne. A person is infectious to others only when they have symptoms of illness.

What are the symptoms of Ebola?

Symptoms begin abruptly with fever, malaise and headache, with diarrhea about 5 days later. Symptoms usually occur 8-10 days after direct contact with body substances of an infected person. The incubation period may be up to 21 days.

What is the risk of contracting Ebola in the Five College community?

There are a limited number of students in the Five College community who live or have traveled to the countries affected by the current Ebola outbreak. Students who were in study abroad programs in these countries over the summer are now in the U.S. and do not meet the criteria for potential suspected cases.

Should travel to that part of West Africa be cancelled?

Faculty, staff and students of the Five Colleges, in keeping with the level 3 warning from the CDC, should avoid travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. There are no Five College study abroad programs within these countries for the fall semester. Those planning travel to Nigeria should be aware of the level 2 warning from the CDC and monitor the situation closely.

What is being done to monitor the students who have been in the affected countries?

In the unlikely event that this situation arises, we will follow the recommendations of the Massachusetts Department of public health (MDPH) for students who know they were exposed to a person with Ebola within the previous 21 days. It is important to stress that even if students who have come from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone report what appear to be relevant symptoms (fever, headache, diarrhea), these individuals are not considered a suspected case unless they have known exposure to Ebola.

What do I do if I start to feel sick?

As at any time, if you are experiencing symptoms of any infectious illness, please delay your return to campus until you have recovered and are no longer contagious. If while on campus you experience signs of illness, especially fever, vomiting or diarrhea, severe pain or weakness, or unusual bleeding or bruising, please consult promptly with your campus's health center staff.

Where can I get more information?