A Liberian from Dallas has passed away after coming into contact with Ebola while traveling in disease-stricken West Africa.
The man is the first U.S. patient to contract Ebola and bring it back stateside.
Although the breech may alarm Americans, the North Dakota University Systems, the North Dakota Department of Health and North Dakota State have not observed any reason for universities in North Dakota to feel endangered.
“We are still being as vigilant as we possibly can on screening and monitoring,” College of Pharmacy, Nursing & Allied Sciences Dean Charles Peterson said. “We have found no problems within the campus.”
On Monday, the NDDoH sent an invitation to video conference with the NDUS institutions to update and inform the public.
“While no cases of Ebola have been identified in North Dakota, the department remains vigilant about preparing in the event Ebola is diagnosed within our state,” the release said.
“We’ll take action according to what the guidelines that have been suggested to us if that does occur,” said Peterson, chair of the Ebola planning task force, although the disease has spread worldwide.
Peterson said the chance of a North Dakota resident being diagnosed with Ebola is “extremely low,” but people need to be mindful of the disease. “I think our greatest tool to address this is awareness, education and monitoring.”
The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been setting guidelines institutions across the nation should follow.
“As a result of that, I think there’s been a whole lot more awareness and understanding,” Peterson said. “The fact that people are asking questions – which is very appropriate – we just need not to panic.”
If Ebola was to further spread in the nation, which is unlikely, Peterson said, the U.S. would be better equipped at handling the disease.
Pearson also mentioned health care facilities and personnel would help isolate and contain Ebola.
“Ebola, even though it is very lethal when contracted, is very difficult to contract; it’s very difficult to spread,” Peterson said. “And that’s in our favor.”
On Tuesday, the Obama administration said it wished to strengthen screening of travelers coming from West African countries.
Individuals showing symptoms who wish to travel in West Africa are not allowed to do so, Peterson said.
“We are monitoring admissions, which should come as no surprise,” Peterson said. “We have not found anyone that has caused us to have to monitor or do any screening.
“Nothing has changed related to our status, our strategy and our current state related to if this is an issue,” Peterson said.
The stigma of Ebola is damaging people as well, but there should not be fear of students who come from these countries.
“These (affected) countries that have students here, we want them treated with the utmost degree of respect,” Peterson said. “We need to make them feel welcome.”