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UNG forms Ebola response team; presentation shows disease history

Ebola presentation
Dr. Davison Sangweme spoke to some 150 students, faculty, staff and community members at the University of North Georgia's Gainesville Campus about the Ebola virus and the recent events surrounding it.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) addressed the Ebola outbreak in two ways today – the creation of an Ebola Response Committee and a campus presentation about the history and spread of the virus.

President Bonita C. Jacobs announced Monday morning, via an email to UNG faculty and staff, that she has created an Ebola Response Committee to focus on education, personnel training, awareness, preparedness, and coordination with external agencies as needed.

"While the probability of Ebola directly impacting the UNG community is very low, I am creating an Ebola Response Committee to minimize our risk and to oversee execution of a response plan," Jacobs wrote.

The committee will be chaired by Dr. Billy Wells, vice president for executive affairs, and will include representatives from various UNG divisions, including Academic Affairs, the Center for Global Engagement, the Corps of Cadets, the Department of Nursing, Environmental Health and Occupational Safety, Human Resources, Plant Operations, Public Safety, Student Affairs, Student Health Services, and University Relations.

In an event hosted by UNG's Biology Club, Dr. Davison Sangweme spoke Monday to a standing-room only crowd about the Ebola virus, including a history of the virus and its nature and preventative measures that are being taken to combat the virus' spread.

Sangweme, who is originally from Zimbabwe and is an assistant professor of biology on UNG's Gainesville Campus, reiterated the message from the Centers for Disease Controls (CDC) that Ebola is difficult to contract and does not spread by air or food — only by direct contact with bodily fluid from an infected person or animal.

"Today I want to shed some light on what is known about this virus and eliminate some of the stigmas and misinformation that surround it," Sangweme said. "It is in our best interest to be informed about the virus and its behavior."

Students, UNG personnel and community members listened as Sangweme outlined how the virus began in Zaire, Africa in 1976 near the Ebola River, giving the virus its current name. He also provided general information about the structure of viruses and how Ebola follows or in some cases differs from other viruses.

Many students in attendance were biology majors looking to get a more real-world view of the virus and the events surrounding it.

"I'm currently taking an anatomy and physiology course, and this goes along with some of the things we've been learning," said Kelsey Hedberg, a sophomore who is majoring in biology. "I'm interested in seeing how the science incorporates into real life."

To date, there have been eight cases of Ebola in the United States. Three have been successfully treated, four are currently being treated, and one, Thomas Eric Duncan, died Oct. 8. Duncan, a citizen of Liberia, traveled to Dallas, Texas to visit family, and later began feeling ill. The only two cases to have originated within the U.S. involve nurses who contracted the virus while treating Duncan. The CDC has stated these infections were likely due to improper procedure in the use of or removal of protective gear.

The current outbreak is the largest in history — there have been nearly 9,000 confirmed cases with nearly 4,500 deaths caused by the disease.

Early symptoms of the disease include fever, severe headache, muscle pain and weakness. According to the CDC, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and bleach can inactivate the virus. The center also recommends thorough hand-washing amongst other practices to limit possible exposure. For more information about the virus including best practices for prevention, please visit the CDC's Ebola page at:  http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html.

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