The University of North Georgia (UNG) continues to actively monitor the ongoing Ebola virus situation and, ahead of the upcoming winter break, has issued an advisory to those considering travel to the West African countries affected by the outbreak.
Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains that was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976. Ebola outbreaks in the United States are rare, and the limited incidents experienced have been associated with travel to countries affected by Ebola or exposure through medical-related work.
UNG has created an Ebola Response Committee to oversee preventative measures and plan various contingencies. While the risk of Ebola remains low at UNG and in north Georgia, necessary responses must be prepared, as is the case with other types of situations that impact the university community, such as weather closures and flu epidemics.
An email sent Dec. 5 to UNG faculty, staff and students from UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs included a reminder of the travel warnings and advisories issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"With the upcoming holiday break, we understand that some of you may be contemplating travel to countries affected by Ebola," Jacobs wrote. "It is important for you to weigh the benefits and the risks of traveling to areas affected by Ebola virus and understand the policies and monitoring procedures that will be implemented upon returning to the United States, specifically to Georgia."
UNG faculty, staff or students considering travel to parts of West Africa affected by Ebola, whether on personal or university business, should take the following steps:
- Closely monitor travel advisories for your destination. Currently, the CDC has issued a Level 3 Warning (avoid all non-essential travel) for Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and a Level 2 Alert for Mali (practice enhanced precautions for avoidance of contact with ill individuals).
- Prior to departure: Contact Dr. Billy Wells, vice-president for executive affairs, 706-864-1630 or email@example.com. He is UNG's designated point-of-contact regarding potential travel to and from Ebola-affected countries.
- Prior to returning to a UNG campus: Contact Wells or Karen Tomlinson, director of UNG Student Health Services, 706-864-1948 or firstname.lastname@example.org. After hours, contact UNG Public Safety at 706-864-1500. Travelers should be prepared to respond to questions related to your travel, potential exposure history, and whether you are experiencing signs and symptoms of Ebola virus disease such as fever, headache, fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or unusual bruising or bleeding.
UNG is working closely with the University System of Georgia (USG), the Georgia Ebola Response Team, local hospitals and law enforcement agencies, other institutions, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Public Health regarding the Ebola situation.
Chancellor Hank Huckaby has directed each USG institution to designate a point-of-contact to provide information, current advisories, and guidance to faculty, staff, and students traveling to and returning from countries most at risk for Ebola. UNG's points-of-contact are Wells and Tomlinson.
UNG also has created an Ebola information page on the Student Health Services website, which has FAQ and links to current travel advisories and other information from the CDC.
Early symptoms of Ebola 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.