Provost addresses the Stanford community on Ebola

In an Oct. 23 message to the Stanford community regarding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Provost John Etchemendy and Dr. Ira Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center, said the university has established protocols to reduce the risks to the community posed by the virus, and to identify, isolate and begin care should the campus have a case in the Stanford Health Care network.

“We are confident of our plans for handling a local case of Ebola in our emergency room and for caring for such a patient within our hospital isolation units,” they wrote, adding that the university is fortunate to have a world-class medical facility and expert personnel. “We have and will continue to train our Stanford Medicine staff using state-of-the-art simulations of an Ebola scenario.”

Etchemendy said the university has been monitoring the high-level federal warnings about travel to the Ebola regions since the summer, and recalled or cancelled summer academic programs to the region.

“Stanford has a current restriction in place prohibiting Stanford-related travel by any community member to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the three countries where Ebola outbreaks continue,” the message states.

“We imposed this restriction due to the uncertainty of travel and safety logistics, as well as health care constraints in these areas. The public health infrastructure in these countries is severely strained as the outbreak grows, and the security situation in these countries is unstable and may worsen.”

At present, Stanford Medicine does not plan to send any organized medical support team to the affected area. Some people may still want to volunteer their expertise in West Africa during the crisis, Etchemendy said, adding that Stanford respects that selfless and humanitarian personal choice.

“But any Stanford, faculty, staff or student who wishes to undertake personal, voluntary travel to these specific countries should be aware that Stanford’s ability to provide medical support or evacuation in the event of illness or exposure will be severely limited, and potentially in the hands of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department, beyond our control,” the message states.

Speaking at Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Etchemendy encouraged the Stanford community to contribute to relief efforts.

All individuals traveling to those areas should register their trip in Stanford’s travel registry at the Office of International Affairs, Etchemendy said.

Etchemendy said anyone who travels to an Ebola-affected area will be required to contact campus health offices for an evaluation prior to their return to campus – the Vaden Health Center for students and the Occupational Health Center for employees.

“Any employee or visitor who has traveled to or arrived from the endemic Ebola area – Liberia, Serra Leone and Guinea – for any reason will be required to stay away from campus for 21 days following the completion of travel,” the message states. “Arrangements and support for this isolation period may be available and should have prior approval.”

Campus units expecting visitors from the endemic Ebola countries should contact Brendan Walsh – [email protected] or (650) 725-0076 – in the Office of International Affairs before their planned arrival to determine steps to take before the visitors are permitted to enter campus.

“To date, we have not identified any member of our community, or any visitor to campus, who is at elevated risk for Ebola,” the message states.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers Ebola to pose little risk to persons in the United States at this time. The Ebola virus is only spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with, or has died from, Ebola or objects contaminated with the virus. Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu; Ebola is not transmitted through the air.

While a case of Ebola within the Stanford community is unlikely, Etchemendy said the outbreak of the deadly virus was an opportunity to remind everyone of the basic precautions they should take to avoid the spread of any communicable disease.

“We encourage every member of the Stanford community who is able to do so to get a flu shot, either from your own doctor or in one of our free flu vaccination clinics ongoing now,” the message states. “It is also important to practice proper hygiene throughout the winter months and to avoid infecting others if you become sick.”

Finally, Etchemendy encouraged the Stanford community to play close attention to the evolving situation and to stay informed by visiting the Stanford Responds to Ebola website.

The website presents updates on the university’s response to the outbreak; details for travelers to the affected region; and FAQs and links to the CDC and the World Health Organization. It also includes a video of Stanford and CDC experts talking about the health, governance, security and ethical dimensions of Ebola.

For more, visit http://ebola.stanford.edu