Although no cases of the Ebola virus disease have been found in the U.S., the LSU Student Health Center is asking students to schedule an appointment if they have traveled recently to countries where the virus has taken hold.
Nelson Perret, Student Health Center medical director, said being at a university with a sizable international student population means taking proper precautions.
Perret wants students who have been to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone in the last 21 days to call (225) 578-5084 to schedule an evaluation. He said appointments are preferable to walk-ins, and preparations can be made to contain the virus if discovered.
Perret said no students had called to make an appointment as of Friday.
LSU does not sponsor summer study abroad programs in any of the five West African countries where Ebola cases have been reported to the World Health Organization. Still, professors and graduate students often travel overseas for research in the summer or go home to visit family, Perret said.
According to the LSU International Programs website, 42 students from Nigeria were enrolled in spring 2014 — about half of the university’s 81 students from sub-Saharan Africa. One student from Liberia was enrolled, but none was enrolled from the other Ebola-affected countries.
Nearly 3,700 cases of Ebola have been reported in Africa. The virus, which is spread by blood and other bodily fluids, causes fever, hemorrhaging and, often, death. Symptoms of Ebola include fever, headaches, muscle aches and vomiting.
While the likelihood of Ebola is slim, people who have traveled to affected countries should not automatically assume they don’t have the virus, Perret said.
“You may just stay home for two days and think you have the flu, but if you’ve been to any of those countries, we need to talk to you,” Perret said.
Ebola does not spread as easily as aerosolized diseases like tuberculosis, Perret said, meaning an infected person who sneezes won’t spread the virus if there is at least 3 feet between them and another person. Instead, bodily fluids are the main concern.
Proper sanitation is an issue in many African hospitals, where doctors and nurses are working long hours to care for many patients. Such a stressful situation can cause slip-ups in sanitation, which contribute to the spread of Ebola, Perret said.
Even if Ebola cases begin showing up in the U.S., Perret believes the virus will be easily contained.
“If you’re one of those folks who has to get evaluated, your chances of having Ebola are very small,” Perret said. “But it is deadly, so you don’t want to ignore it. You may not get a second chance.”