MTSU to Conduct Preparedness Drill for Ebola

By Dawn Wyatt

MTSU and the Tennessee Department of Health will be conducting Ebola preparedness drills on campus, Oct. 29 and Nov. 12 with several departments participating, including Student Services, housing, campus police and the Tennessee Board of Regents.

The drills will consist of all the parties involved in one room discussing possible outbreak scenarios to be sure they are all ready, said Dr. Eric Clark, director Student Health Medical Services.

“We are partnering with Tennessee Department of Health on Oct. 29 and Nov. 12 to conduct an Ebola tabletop exercise with our staff,” Dr. Richard Chapman said, director of Student Health Administration.

“Our goal will be two-fold: to be sure the university is prepared to react appropriately if we must, and also to provide accurate information to help prevent unnecessary fears,” said Debra Sells, Vice President of Student Affairs.

Clark said that if a sick student came in that had traveled internationally to West Africa within the previous 21 days, they would first have to be isolated. The clinical staff, wearing full protective gear including masks, gloves and gowns, would then assess the patient.

After the patient has been examined, the staff will call the health department and the Center for Disease Control to find out where they want him sent, Clark said. The CDC can test for the virus in their labs.

Ebolavirus, which causes Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, is rare outside of West Africa.  Clark said there is a very low likelihood of contracting it in Tennessee.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus can be spread to others through blood or body fluids, including saliva, sweat, urine, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen. It is also spread by direct contact with broken skin or mucus membrane such as hand to eye or through shared needles and syringes.

They also noted that the Ebola virus is not airborne.

“There are no documented cases that a virus, traditionally spread by direct contact, has mutated to a respiratory virus,” Clark said. “If it’s not in multiple places in the U.S. and there is no direct contact, then infection is not likely.”

“Early symptoms are similar to the flu: fever, aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,” said Clark. “This is different from the flu in that it’s spread by contact. Thank goodness it’s only by contact.”

There are no students at MTSU who are from the three affected countries, Ghana, Sierra Leone or Liberia, nor is there any foreign travel there, Clark said.

“International Affairs is fully involved and knows where our students are from,” he said.

“We need to take this serious and treat the students as if they were our own kids,” Clark said. “It’s important that people don’t overreact and don’t panic.”

The students and faculty need not be worried but “be aware of any changes in and where the virus is in the world,” Clark said. “It never hurts to stay abreast of news from the CDC and the World Health Organization.”

“We want people not to be scared, but we also don’t want them to bury their head in the sand,” Clark said. “Don’t be scared, but be alert.”

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