Stanford responds to Ebola questions
What has Stanford done so far in preparation for a possible case of Ebola among members of the Stanford community?
The university has had a pandemic plan in place for many years. Since Ebola began to emerge as an issue, the university has been planning intensively and following best practices and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We have held meetings of the campus infection control working group, representing many departments across campus, in concert with county public health officials, since summer. With the emergence of the U.S. index case in Dallas, the pace of planning has been stepped up recently, and operational subgroups are actively working on updating existing contingency plans for medical care, identification and support in the unlikely event of a potential case occurring at or near Stanford. Additionally, policy and support guidance has been developed for travelers to and from the affected countries with community outbreaks, as well as for other areas of West Africa.
At what level do you assess the risk from Ebola to members of the Stanford community?
The risk is very, very small. For members of our campus community, our students and faculty who returned to campus this fall, we are now well past the critical 21-day window for Ebola. Nevertheless, we are continuously monitoring the emerging situation and adapting existing infection control planning efforts in order to further reduce that small risk.
How would the university’s ongoing protocols for disease control help diminish the possibility of an Ebola infection on campus?
We have isolation plans, and we would communicate quickly and effectively. Our protocols enable us to identify possible scenarios, designate a range of potential response actions to mitigate the risk, and allow us to quickly share information and communicate needed steps to the necessary groups, such as staff and emergency responders.
What advice has Stanford offered to students, staff and faculty who might be considering traveling to the West African countries most affected so far?
Stanford is asking that all non-essential travel be deferred to the three countries with community spread of Ebola: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Travelers are also advised that travel to other parts of West Africa should be carefully evaluated to account for possible disruption due to local country restrictions on incoming and outgoing visitors, even if those areas are not presently at risk of Ebola virus disease.
What type of outreach has the university done to the campus community thus far to educate them about Ebola and its risks?
Instruction and guidance will be posted to this site, including links to instructions for returning travelers from West Africa and university guidance for travelers. These instructions are consistent with guidance documents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This site will be regularly updated as information becomes available.
What advice does the university offer to students, faculty and staff to diminish the possibility they could contract Ebola?
We are always educating our campus community to minimize the spread of any infectious disease, whether it would be the flu or Ebola. It’s always a good idea to practice good hand-washing and basic hygiene. That cuts down on the risk of person-to-person spread of many infectious diseases. Right now, travel to the three affected countries with community outbreak is strongly discouraged. Returning travelers are urged to check in with our health services and self-monitor for signs of illness for 21 days after return.
Is Stanford Hospital equipped and able to handle an Ebola case should it occur in this area?
We are fortunate to have a world-class medical facility, and expert personnel, at the university. Stanford Hospital, like many hospitals across the country, has elevated its alert status. If needed, they are equipped and fully prepared to accept an Ebola case.
Are you worried that the nation’s focus on Ebola right now might diminish the precautions people take around influenza?
Our flu vaccine clinics are always underway at this time of the year, and we make free shots available to all members of our campus community. There’s been good distribution and acceptance of vaccinations, so we are pleased that our faculty, staff and students remain focused on prevention. Ebola has not been a distraction, but perhaps a reminder of the importance of good self-care. It is very important to remind everyone that, unlike the influenza virus, Ebola transmission requires close contact with someone with disease symptoms and is not transmitted through the air.
For more information, visit http://ebola.stanford.edu