U.S. colleges to screen students from Nigeria as fears grow over Ebola spread

Ebola virusStudents from Nigeria and other West African countries arriving in the U.S. to study will be subject to extra health checks in a bid to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, Daily Mail reported on Friday.

College administrators are keen to insulate their campuses from the worst outbreak of the disease in history, which has claimed the lives of more than 1,550 people so far.

The virus is continuing to spread in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria and with the expected arrival of thousands of students from these countries, authorities are on alert.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued no specific recommendations for colleges, some state health departments, including those in South Carolina and North Dakota, have told administrators what symptoms to look for and how to react.

Elsewhere, universities are drafting their own precautionary plans against the often-fatal fever, which causes weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, internal bleeding and sometimes bleeding from the nose and ears.

The American College Health Association recommends its members update emergency plans, find out where patients have traveled and use isolation exam rooms when available.

Several colleges are also checking the temperatures of students arriving from affected countries and continuing to monitor for fever until any risk of contagion has passed.

People gather around the body of a man in the street in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, who is suspected of dying from the Ebola virus

U.S. universities count 9,728 active students from Nigeria, 204 from Liberia, 169 from Sierra Leone and 95 students from Guinea, according to the federal government.

The 30 Nigerian students expected at the University of Illinois will be pulled aside for a temperature check and private Ebola discussion when they arrive at the health center for mandatory immunisation paperwork and tuberculosis screening, said Dr Robert Palinkas, the centre’s director.

The plans have been reassuring to the handful of parents who have called wondering whether their child’s placement with a West African roommate should give them reason to worry, he said.

He added: ‘Parents are comforted to know that there is a screening process, that we are alert for it, that we are prepared for it.

‘We’re doing everything we can without infringing on the rights of anybody to make sure their son or daughter is going to have the lowest risk possible.’

Similar screenings are planned at the University at Buffalo, Mercer University in Georgia, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the University of Akron in Ohio, the campuses said.

Alma Olson, director of Student Health Services at the Akron University, said students are being asked to keep tabs on their temperature for up to 21 days, the length of time it can take for symptoms of Ebola to appear following exposure.

‘At the end of the 21-day period they’ll come back and we’ll check them and send them on their way,’ she said.

‘There’s such a low level of worry’ because Ebola doesn’t spread easily but we really have to be on top of any communicable disease,’ she added.

Universities in the United Kingdom also are on alert with the expected arrival of thousands of Nigerian students there.

Universities UK, which represents universities, has circulated guidance from Public Health England advising administrators on how to recognize and react to possible cases.

It comes as the World Health Organisation warned the current outbreak of the deadly virus could grow six times larger and infected as many as 20,000 people.

Ebola has affected Africa for 40 years, but previously struck in remote villages and was contained fairly quickly.

However during this outbreak, it has spread to major cities in four countries, provoking unrest as whole neighborhoods and towns have been sealed to the outside.

It is spread through direct human to human contact.

An experimental vaccine developed by the U.S. government and GlaxoSmithKline will be tested on humans starting next week, the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced on Thursday.

The NIH trial will use healthy adult volunteers in Maryland, and British experts will simultaneously test the same vaccine in healthy people in the UK, Gambia and Mali.